Some top picks from the Byron Yoga Centre staff
“Yoga of Heart - the Healing Power of Intimate Connection”
Mark Whitwell (Lantern Books, New York, 2002)
Review by Ana Davis
I picked this book up at the Sydney Yoga Conference earlier last year, after experiencing several inspiring workshops with internationally well-known yoga teacher, Mark Whitwell. This is a beautiful book that is so rich with simple yet fresh insights about yoga and life that I know I will continue to delve into this as a valuable resource for my teaching as well as my own personal inspiration. Mark’s wisdom is simply a dusting off of the ancient feminine/tantric wisdom that somehow became buried by the patriarchal and religious hierarchy, which Mark eschews with such alarming clarity, integrity and beauty. The overarching philosophy here is described by these two words, “strength receiving”. These two words become a cyclical mantra in his classes, as Mark coaches the breath: exhalation is ‘strength’, inhalation is “receiving”.
This embracing of the masculine/feminine polarities of life is encapsulated in a moving description of his own mother’s death, in which she urges sagely, on her deathbed: “Keep going, Mark. Don’t let anyone hold you back. Men can learn how to love women properly. When they receive us our strength comes out. That is best for men too.”
“Bringing Yoga to Life – the everyday practice of enlightened living”
Donna Farhi (Harper Collins, 2004)
Editors note: two of our staff happened to read this little gem of Donna Farhi’s, so we’ve included both reviews to provide you with two different perspectives.
Review by Christine Lines
Packing up home, preparing for our journey to India, my book collection became ever smaller until only three books remained beside my backpack. One of them, Donna Farhi's 'Bringing Yoga to Life', is a soft paperback, ideal for travel, that can be read from cover to cover or dipped into for daily inspiration. Demonstrating the 'everyday practice of enlightened living' through the experience of her students and the impact of yoga in their lives, Donna explores yoga both on and off the mat.
It feels so relevant to a theme I'm passionate about - life beyond the retreat. Weaving philosophy into her writing, yogic concepts and spiritual texts are explained in such a practical way that I find it an irresistible read every time!
Second Review by Gitam Garden
These are beautifully and sensitively written guidelines for yogic living
I devoured this book in a couple of days, unable to put it down, and then began again at the beginning to give myself time to absorb each page and the many teachings spoken, beginning to feel like I already know this person, she writes from my own heart.
When I had the great fortune to be able to combine a visit to my daughter with a Donna Farhi workshop earlier this year, I jumped at the chance. Now each morning, as I light incense and a candle at my altar and set my intention for the day, I include in my heartfelt offering of gratitude thanks for my personal experience of this remarkable woman and her embodiment of enlightened living.
"Living Your Yoga"
Judith Lasater (Rodmell Press, 2000)
Review by Pete Jackson (our resident Blogger and newsletter writer )
Editors note: In the interests of rounding things out, I asked Pete to review this book as it shares a similar theme to Donna Farhi’s “Bringing Yoga to Life” - in which it discusses practical applications of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras.
Written from a teacher's perspective but not being one, my reservation over whether I'd 'get' this book were soon dismissed once I'd ploughed through section one. Lasater reinforces much of what I enjoy about yoga and it's place in my life. The author writes of her journey with yoga to a higher state of awareness and the way her yoga helps her personal life both within herself and through her children. In fact, it's her 3 children who feature throughout as teachers through their simple and honest response to life, a lesson not lost on Lasater. She talks of discipline's intention and commitment and each chapter is practical, with tips which apply the philosophy of practice, along with mantras for daily living at each chapter’s close.
Lasater reminds us taking control means letting go of control, great advice as we looks towards a new year! I like also how she reminds us to acknowledge our ego in order to let it go. She's also compassionate in the way she allows us to apply the practice of yoga in the way we interact with others in daily life while discouraging 'burn out'. A holiday read such as this which tells us to live gently without putting too much into our lives could be just what a holiday needs.
“The inner Tradition of Yoga - A guide to Yoga Philosophy for the contemporary Practitioner”
Micheal stone (Shambhala Publications 2008)
Review by Stephan Kahlert
This is a great book that explains the ‘kleshas’ (or afflictions) and the way we create suffering through clinging. It uses fairly simple language to explain Yoga Philosophy and it never moves far away from practical applications of the Philosophy.
“The Bhagavad Gita – A New Translation”
Stephen Mitchell (Three Rivers Press, 2000)
Review by Ana Davis
Mahatma Ghandi described it as his “eternal mother”, and there is no doubt that the Bhagavad Gita has influenced many spiritual seekers over the centuries. The title of this extended ‘poem’ means “The Song of the Blessed One” and is book six of India’s national epic, The Mahabharata.
With many translations and interpretations now available for the Western reader it can be baffling to know where to start. I recommend Stephen Mitchell’s translation as a good launching-pad for your journey into the allegorical world of the Lord Krishna and the warrior-prince, Arjuna.
Mitchell’s interpretation is a good introduction to this text because it is refreshingly easy to read and comprehend. It flows as a continuous, lyrical poem, that is not weighed down by lengthy foot notes or explanations. This allows you to get a ‘handle’ of the overriding philosophies of bhakti yoga and what is described here as the yoga of ‘actionless action’ .
Once you have this version under your belt, you can stride more confidently into the world of academic translations and religious interpretations that are widely available.