I have been delving into my recently arrived copy of Gregor Maehle’s book. It’s extremely thorough – he spends eight pages on Surya Namaskar A alone. Ever been to one of those workshops where the intructor walks you through an asana contantly stopping to explain every nuance and detail? You know what I mean? – ‘A line should pass through that heel to this second toe and here’s why’ kinda thing. Well that’s what this book is like. A lot of thought has gone into it; And beyond the poses he anticipates and answers the typical sort of general questions an intermediate ashtangi might still harbour. Such as full versus half vinyasa – which is the more appropriate and for whom, and when?
I’ve also gotten a deeper appreciation for how the asanas tie together from Gregor. And some of you are probably going ‘well duh’ – Of course I always knew this as a yoga truism, but he explains the mechanics behind this truism – precisely why, physiologically speaking, certain asanas are prerequisites for others (the book’s full of pictures of muscle groups, joints etc.). Hence I now have a real understanding of why it is that teachers hold back certain asanas until proficiency is achieved in others. Really, it’s to keep you from hurting yourself.
The immediate tangible impact on my practice though is that it has changed the way I look at Surya Namaskar. In hindsight I’ve treated it too much like a ‘warm-up’ to be gotten through quickly before the serious business. It’s much more than that – and here again, you’re going ‘well duh’ – but I always thought I was being serious in my Sun Salutations. After a careful reading of Gregor’s section on them (which ironically he starts by introducing them as ‘warm-up’ exercises), I’ve realized that I wasn’t as diligent as I needed to be. The Suryas are so complex – there is so much to pay attention to and I’ve begun to do that. the affect that has had on my whole practice is awesome (and I don’t mean awesome in way my six year-old does) – it’s as though that extra energy and focus I generate now in those first 5-10 minutes ripples through the rest of my practice.
One other benefit I’ve gotten is the advice to continuously pay attention to the ‘pairs of opposites’; for example, in my desire to progress in my asanas, I’ve focused too much on flexibility – pushing myself to ‘make the stretch’. But the truth is that flexibility is only one half of a pair of opposites – the other being strength (yeah yeah I know…’well duh’). I now understand that I need to balance flexibility with strength in order to get the most from my practice in the present…which in turn will drive my progress automatically. I am beginning to understand that there is a ‘tardis‘ of depth inside the deceptively simple idea of ‘the middle path’ that pervades Yoga.
While there are no asanas beyond Yoga Chikitsa presented in this book, you don’t really need that to be provided here – I’ve got them in my Miele and Swenson books and they can be gotten off the web for that matter. The real gem in this book is that it uses the Primary Series to teach the correct approach to one’s physical practice – which can then be applied to all the poses that lie beyond.
It’s a fine book – one well worth having in my opinion and one out of which I’ve taken so much with as yet only a cursory look.
In ending, I should add that I’m not being paid for this enthusiastic review 😉