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Review of "Yoga for Everyone"

By Judy Smith, Doriel Hall, Bel Gibbs
Lorenz, 2005
Review by Christian Perring, Ph.D. on Aug 28th 2005
Yoga for Everyone

Yoga for Everyone is split into three parts, each by one of the three authors.  The first, about 134 pages, is Iyengar Yoga; the second, about 28 pages, is on Meditation, and the third, about 83 pages, is on Yoga for Children.  It is fully illustrated with color photographs.  The authors do not recommend learning yoga from the book alone, but instead suggest that it be used in conjunction with learning from a teacher.  While the second on meditation seems too short to be of much use for anything beyond the most basic aspects, the other two sections could be helpful for people who are starting to learn about yoga.  The photographs are especially good, with regular people and helpful hints about how to perform the yoga poses correctly. 

Judy Smith explains Iyengar yoga comes from Mr. B.K.S. Iyengar, who has systematized over 200 classical poses.  He is in his 80s now, and he has a considerable following.  Several pages are devoted to explaining the basics of his approach, and the ideas behind it.  When it comes to the poses however there is not much need to think about the philosophy, although the poses in themselves do lend themselves to a greater sense of bodily awareness and sense of occupying one's frame.  The section explains the standing postures, including the warrior poses, and forward extensions.  For each pose, the text explains how far apart the feet need to be, how to progress through the pose from start to finish, and what to focus on while doing it.  There is also a box listing some modifications, for people who find the pose difficult in some ways.  For each pose, there's a brief explanation of the benefits it provides.  Following parts set out sitting poses, twists, inversions including shoulder stands and the Plough, the Dog, the Locust, and the Camel.  Strangely, there is no help with doing headstands. Especially important are 27 sequences of movements for those who want to use the poses as exercise. 

At the end of this section several poses are devoted to using yoga poses for therapy of minor ailments and common problems.  It is very plausible that yoga can help for backache, fatigue and anxiety, and maybe also for stress-headaches.  It is more surprising that yoga might help for insomnia and depression, and it is rather counter-intuitive that yoga could help with indigestion and diarrhea. Whether these actually work is hard to say, but given that doing the yoga is healthy, it is worth trying them to see how effective they are. 

Doriel Hall sets out some basic information about meditation.  The section explains the benefits of meditation, some techniques, and some ideas about how it works.  This part seems patchy and badly researched: the author claims, for example, that we use less than 10% of our neo-cortex in the brain, but this is a myth.  To what extent the explanation of Eastern thought, with its discussion of energy channels, charkas and granthis, is accurate, is hard to say, but the explanations are brief and simplistic.  Certainly, the writing does not make the Eastern thought at all plausible.  The practical parts of the section is done better, with its discussion of breathing, posture, and visualizations.  However, if anyone wanted to seriously engage in meditation, this section would be of virtually no help.

The final section by Bel Gibbs on yoga for children is the most surprising and enjoyable.  There are many delightful photographs of children performing yoga, often having fun and grinning.  Some parts are written for children, explaining in very simple terms what yoga is and how to do it.  Many of the pictures show the children in pairs and groups, so the yoga practice does not seem like it has to be a solitary activity.  This section would probably be attractive and helpful for some children who are open to doing some yoga with their friends or with adults. 

Yoga for Everyone is a nicely produced book.  It is quite introductory and so anyone who wants to learn about yoga in detail would need to move onto other books or ways of learning quickly.  Before buying any yoga book, it would be best to compare several different ones to compare which was the best fit for one's particular needs and interests.  This one certainly has several strong aspects, and is worth considering as an option. 

 

© 2005 Christian Perring. All rights reserved.

 

Christian Perring, Ph.D., is Chair of the Philosophy Department at Dowling College, Long Island, and editor of Metapsychology Online Review.  His main research is on philosophical issues in medicine, psychiatry and psychology.

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