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Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Heart of Yoga

Desikachar, T.K.V. The Heart of Yoga: Developing a Personal Practice.

Desikachar is the son of Sri T Krshnamacharya, which is recommendation enough for many who are interested in yoga. Krshnmacharya, one of the most respected yoga teachers of his time, insisted that yoga practice must be tailored to the individual, not the other way around.

Beautifully written (and translated), The Heart of Yoga provides insight and understanding into the practice and purpose of yoga. Easy to read and easy to understand, Desikachar provides information about the history and philosophy of yoga, Patanjali's Yoga Sutras, the purpose of asanas, the importance of breath and movement, how to link asanas and why, and more.

It is not a book of poses and how to perform them, but a source of understanding more about the various poses, the difference between dynamic and static poses, the importance of taking into account the individual when designing a series of poses.

The individual takes precedence -- always. Perfect form in an asana does not mean that the pose is providing the service it should, and those who are less limber, less strong can modify poses to improve themselves physically and mentally. The yoga that Desikachar describes is not "fitness yoga" in the sense of intense exercise and beautiful bodies, but movements and philosophy that can benefit anyone and lead to improvements in health and well-being.


Nonfiction. Yoga. 1995. 242 pages.


  1. I love yoga, but am overwhelmed by the books out there. This looks like a good one to pick up. Thanks!

  2. This makes me think I really should get back into practising yoga. It's been years since I did and I've been put off because I feel so stiff - a reason for doing it, I know!

  3. When you said the book is not a how-to, but is instead a thoughtful book about the practice of yoga, I had to laugh because I just picked up this book: Yoga for People Who Can't Be Bothered to Do It by Geoff Dyer. Dyer's new book has been getting some good buzz, and I think this older book is a tongue-in-cheek collection of essays about laziness. It's not, I think, about yoga at all, but it has a funny title. I hope you won't take it the wrong way, when I say it made me laugh, because the laughter had nothing to do with your post!

  4. Amy - I really liked this one because it gave me a deeper understanding about yoga practice and philosophy!

    BooksPlease - I've been taking classes of "fitness yoga" for a little over year, but have recently added classes that are more "restorative yoga" and have fallen in love all over again with my yoga practice. I love the way these more recent classes focus on a deeper level and approach yoga from a slower, more relaxed, more individual point of view.

    Fay - :) I think I should try Dyer's book, too!

  5. I've missed my yoga for two weeks what with all that I've had going but I'm definitely going tomorrow. I haven't really read much about the philosophy and history but our teacher always closes the class with a quote or passage that I don't know how she does it but always feels so relevant to what I'm going through or feeling at that particular time. It's wonderful.

    Anyway, thank you for such a good review of this book.