Although I was the kid who always wanted to show off a neat arm trick I could do, I never knew it was called Namaste -- The Prayer until I was an adult. But yoga is more than just a few flexible tricks, and in Sally Parkes' book "The Yoga Healing Bible: Finding the best postures, meditations, relaxation techniques, and breathing exercises for complete physical and spiritual balance," she shows readers the history behind yoga.
Some yoga books trail off so far into the history of the routines and culture that it starts to feel like a history class. This is fine for someone who wants to read about the culture. But for readers who just want to know the basics but get right into the fitness routines, this spiral "bible" is the way to go.
The opening chapter "An Introduction to Yoga" explores the origins of yoga, the philosophy, equipment and clothing tips, and the eight stages of yoga (yama, niyama, asana, pranayama, pratyahara, dharana, dhyana and samadhi). The book gives a deeper description of ahimsa, satya, asteya, bramacharya and aparighara, detailing everything from celibacy to open communication.
And then the fun begins.
The book is sectioned off into types of poses: standing postures, sitting postures, supine postures, relaxation and breathing, advanced postures, mental yoga and then daily routines to add some versatility.
As with any exercise routine, some are easier than others and less demanding for certain body types.
For example, stretches that physically look like they'd be more difficult (Parsvakonasana -- The Horizon) were a breeze for me. But other poses which were similar in nature went from very easy (Garudasana -- The Eagle) to impossible (Vrksasana -- The Tree) because balancing exercises take time to master.
Others were a matter of knowing how to hold your own weight. The Adho Mukha Savanasana -- The Dog has a forewarning about being a challenging stretch at first. It was pretty simple for me. But for someone like myself who is a 36DD cup, it is problematic to do the Prasarita Padottanasana -- Forward Bend, Feet Wide exercise mainly because a heavy-chested participant isn't just holding her head and arms in place while bending. She's taking on her chest weight, too.
That is not to discourage those of different builds to avoid certain poses, only to warn that body type may lead to different effects during the first round.
The routines will become second nature the more they're repeated. After the first test of doing all of the starting postures and standing postures with repetitions of 30 to 60 seconds or 10 of each, the total time was 41 minutes and 10 seconds. Of course without reading each pose, the time will be shorter.
The way the book is set up as a flat spiral is also helpful for following along. The book can be laid flat while working out, just to remind a participant how to stand or sit. And with the variety of routines and poses, this is fun for a versatile workout. And so many of the poses incorporate strengthening as well as stretching.
But make sure to read and re-read the chapter on breathing. For almost all of these poses, how a participant breathes makes the pose that much more strenuous or relaxing. As with any exercise routine, contact a medical professional should you be concerned about physical ailments before participation.
Tip: Barnes & Noble brick-and-mortar stores currently have this book on their clearance shelves for $9.98, which is a better deal than many online prices.
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