Pros: Small; good drawings; wide variety of poses; good cautions; clear instructions
Cons: Could have used more indication of particularly difficult poses; photos would be slightly preferred
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
This book is not intended as an instructional book for beginners, nor as your sole source of yoga instruction, so I will not judge it in that context. It is meant as a reference guide for those who are already studying yoga in some capacity (although you’ll find it useful whether you’re taking your first class or your twentieth) and who would like a guide to the poses, or asanas, for use when they aren’t at class and don’t have an instructor to guide them. Or, if you already have a more complete book such as The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Yoga, this little book is perfect for taking along to the office or on a trip.
Such a pocket guide is quite a handy thing to have. While yoga is an extremely gentle form of exercise, doing it wrong (like any exercise) can be dangerous. So if you want to continue your practice away from home or class, it can be invaluable to have a guide to remind you of how exactly to do it. Also, with such a guide you won’t be limited to the five or ten poses you can most easily remember. This book has a total of 108, and includes the Sun Salutation and several practices (series of poses to use as a single workout).
I don’t know if this book would fit in most people’s pockets, but certainly it’s small enough to fit in a purse, backpack, or briefcase with ease. Every pose comes with a drawing to show you the correct way to perform it; I have a slight preference for photos because I believe they’re a bit clearer, but the drawings are quite good. The directions, with their brief numbered steps, are also quite clear and easy-to-follow.
Each chapter (chapters are divided by type of pose, such as inverted poses or backbends) starts off with general alignment instructions and cautions; be certain to read these even if you’re sure you know what you’re doing. It never hurts to be safe. Additional cautions are sometimes included in small boxes next to individual poses. This to me is always a sign of a good yoga instructor who is mindful of the possible difficulties and medical issues of her charges.
This book gets into some very complex and difficult poses, which makes it a reference you’ll be able to use throughout your yoga experience. I do wish it had included more indication of which poses were more advanced and should wait until later, although if you assume that you should not practice any pose in this book until you’ve done it at least once in a class, then you’ll be fine–and again, since this book is meant as a companion and reference guide, that would be appropriate.
One particularly useful aspect to this book is that it includes “preparation” poses for some of the more difficult postures, which can also be used as substitution poses if you don’t yet possess the physical capability to perform a posture.
Finally, the book includes four full practices. While it gives chapter references for the poses, which is certainly helpful, I wish it had given page references as well. The practices include one for energy, one for when time is limited (although I guess the author’s definition of limited time isn’t the same as mine–when my time is limited I couldn’t fit all that in!), one for relaxation, and one for work and travel. This last one is particularly interesting; it includes work to counterbalance long periods of sitting, it’s brief, and it includes tips for performing it in a limited area.
The book also does include the Sun Salutation; however, because it’s a small book, it cannot include the sequence of poses all on the same set of pages, which would make it difficult to follow unless you’re already quite familiar with the series.
Despite some very minor imperfections, this book serves as an excellent reference work. It’s perfect for those who are at any stage of their yoga practice, and want a simple guide to the asanas to take with them wherever they might need it.