There’s a widespread but mistaken belief that yoga is a religion and/or a physical discipline suited only to contortionists. In fact, yoga is a lifestyle, and as such it encompasses diet, mental disciplines, spirituality, behavior, as well as the physical movements. In short, it is a philosophy and certainly an appropriate topic for the Philosophy for Everyone series of books.
There’s no end to the magazines, blogs, and other inspirational advice for yogis and yoginis; there’s also a wealth of ancient texts on the subject. But sometimes we want a heartier dose of the philosophy and background written in contemporary language and addressing subjects other than the perfection of asanas. Yoga: Bending Mind and Body is an outstanding way to satisfy that craving.
Nineteen essays are grouped into four categories: What is Yoga?, Yoga and the Body, Yoga’s Vital Energy, and Ethics and Yoga. The broader topics may seem familiar enough, but each contributor’s take on the subject is fresh, surprising, and sometimes even shocking. Perhaps that’s because these essays aren’t part of the writers’ standard spiel; apart from the foreword by John Friend, you won’t find the standard set of yoga celebrities here. Instead, these essays are written by professors, musicians, and even a non-yogi.
The writers share their thoughts on such topics as men and yoga, women and yoga, the spiritual and ethical aspects of yoga, and a brief but telling view of the migration from ancient India to Hollywood. Every piece in this collection contains valuable insight into the practice, but some stand out for their originality and scope: Jennifer Munyer explains how an Eastern tradition became a Western obsession; David Robles addresses the concept of yoga as a timely supply to the Western spiritual demand; Steve Jacobson dares to question the validity of the ancient Indian theories of yoga; Ken Burak shares an eye-opening exercise that he often assigns to students in his philosophy course.
Whether you’re a beginner or a yoga master, you’ll find Yoga: Bending Mind and Body has something to offer. Every essay comes from a place of personal exploration, yet each invites the reader to look at this ancient science from a new perspective.