"The Complete Idiot's Guide to Yoga Illustrated, Fourth Edition," Joan Budilovsky and Eve Adamson

Pros: Extremely comprehensive; easier/more challenging variations on the poses; tips for creating your own routines; a variety of routines; comprehensive index
Cons: I could wish for photos instead of drawings, and page number references for the asanas on the vinyasanas, but those are small things
Rating: 5 out of 5

First published 6/6/2006
Review copy courtesy of Alpha Books.

Where to begin? This is the most comprehensive guide to Yoga for beginners I’ve ever seen. It delves into background, history, breathwork, meditation, spirituality (not religion–it explains the difference), and, of course, the asanas, or poses. The information is interesting and lively, striking a nice balance between depth and simplicity. It’s straightforward and clear, but with a playful tone.

For Beginners

This is an excellent book for beginners, or folks who haven’t done yoga in ages (*raises hand*) and would like to re-start their practice. There’s information about clothing, setting up your practice area, the different schools of yoga, choosing a yoga class, when to practice yoga, how to balance your workout with counterposes, and so on.

There’s information on prana (life force), meditation, and similar concepts in case you would like to explore such things, but the book doesn’t try to push spirituality on you if you aren’t interested–it simply allows you the space to consider them.

Asanas

Key to any good yoga book is a wide variety of asanas, or poses, to keep you interested. This book has several chapters including standing poses, balance poses, bends, inversions, and more. The information it provides is extensive and impressive.

Each posture includes at least one drawing of the properly-performed posture, and sometimes more than one showing it from different sides or angles. Often there are illustrations of posture variations, and sometimes there are ones showing you what not to do.

The asanas include warnings about things to watch out for and contra-indicated conditions, as well as variations for easing into the postures, or simpler/less stressful variations in case you simply can’t do the full asana. Many of them also include more challenging variations as well, for once you’ve mastered the standard pose.

Occasionally I felt that photos might have been slightly clearer than drawings, but this is a mild preference. The explanations and directions strike a good balance between clarity, simplicity, and detail.

Vinyasanas

A vinyasana is a series of asanas that flow one into another, including counterposes and a variety of stretches. The book includes a surprising number of these–more than I’m used to seeing. It includes the standard Sun and Moon Salutations, conveniently depicted on single two-page spreads, which makes them much easier to use in practice.

The authors’ vinyasanas include a warming series, a high-energy series, and a mild/calming series. There are also several series for workouts of a particular length, including three five-minute sessions for when you only have a few minutes here or there, three 15-minute sessions, and a 30-minute and one hour session.

Even better, the book includes instructions to help you construct your own vinyasanas!

My only tiny reservation here is that it would have been nice to have page references to the individual asanas during the vinyasanas, but ultimately it doesn’t take that long to look them up.

Yoga for Certain Conditions

The book includes a few extra bits of valuable information. One is a great chapter on performing yoga with a partner. Another is a chapter for women, including information on performing yoga during and after pregnancy, during PMS and menopause, and more.

Finally, the book includes some basic information on your chakras, a glossary, a thorough and useful index, and additional reading suggestions.

All in all I’d say this is the perfect book for the beginner, or for someone who wants a full and thorough introduction to the world of yoga.

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