on February 20, 2010
Although I do agree with the fellow who noted that this particular edition of Light on Yoga is poorly bound and an awkward size, the book remains a classic. Try to get it used. Luckily, I have an older paperback copy that has remained mostly bound. The book serves the beginner as well as the adept, with good practices listed in the back. I learned my sanskrit words out of neccessity, to minimize the flipping back and forth from the practices to the plates and instructions. Each time I pick up this grand volume, a new little gem is revealed--so much is contained in this book. The introduction is well-written, explaining the 8 limbs of ashtanga yoga and some of the main philosophical elements from Patanjali's Yoga Sutras. There are also hints and cautions, special practices for ailments and pranayama techniques. An oldie but a goodie. As Iyengar himself one exclaimed, "a good book is better than a bad teacher".
on October 8, 2001
This is the definitive text on hatha yoga. This is the book you want if you are serious about beginning your yoga practice. This is also a text of reference for professional teachers used throughout the world. It is no exaggeration to say that all yoga instructors in the United States know this book, and most of them own a copy and refer to it regularly.
Iyengar's text is characterized by a thoroughness of content, a detailed, precise, step-by-step "how to" for instruction in asana and pranayama. There are 602 photos of Iyengar himself demonstrating the poses with extraordinary flexibility and precision. I have an early, hardcover edition with the photos collected together at the back of the book. The newer editions have the photos spaced appropriately throughout the text.
The 34-page Introduction entitled, "What is Yoga?" is a concise overview of the nature, aim and extent of yoga as gleaned from the ancient texts, in particular Pantajali's Yoga Sutras, the Bhagavad Gita and Swatmarama's Hatha Yoga Pradipika (from which Iyengar gets his Sanskrit title, Yoga Dipika). These are the three great texts of yoga and Iyengar knows them well. This Introduction rewards patient study, and is the kind of pithy text that needs to be returned to again and again, and yet it is written in an accessible, inspired, and inspirational style.
Iyengar emphasizes precision and careful technique and a whole body mindfulness as prerequisites to success in hatha yoga. From my experience this mindfulness is absolutely essential for two main reasons. One, you will surely strain or pull a muscle, usually several little ones, if your mind goes astray or if you practice with your attention elsewhere. Count on it. Two, the full import and effect of asana cannot be appreciated, nor the psychological and spiritual lessons implicit within the practice be understood without a deep and continuous concentration--the mindfulness leading to meditation.
The technical instruction of the poses includes some commentary on beneficial effects. It should be noted that according to tradition there are 84,000 poses known (or perhaps the number is 840,000) of which about 84 are said to be necessary for health and the progression to samadhi. It is also said traditionally that a cat was the first yoga teacher. I want to note that only a gifted person with a natural suppleness can hope to master all the poses that Iyengar demonstrates. So don't despair. Most authorities will tell you that a dozen or so will suffice.
Even though detailed instruction is given in only three pranayamas, the subject is nonetheless throughly introduced and explained in the twenty-five elegant and succinct pages that constitute Part III of this book. Included and noteworthy is Iyengar's well-know warning: "Pneumatic tools can cut through the hardest rock. In Pranayama the yogi uses his lungs as pneumatic tools. If they are not used properly, they destroy both the tool and the person using it."
There are two appendices, one on "Asana Courses," which may be useful for teachers or for those who like a highly structured approach. The other is on the curative effects of asana for various disorders including arthritis, asthma, diabetes, flatulence, etc. I take this second appendix with some reserve and note that a comprehensive study of the curative effects of asana awaits its great genius. Nonetheless, the traditional experience, which Iyengar relies on, is part of the ancient practice of ayurvedic medicine, one of the great healing traditions of the world, and as such commands the highest respect. Personally, it is obvious to me that certain asanas facilitate certain natural bodily processes, and it is well know that a concentration of attention and blood flow to an effected part of the body can assist the body's healing mechanisms. Asana, properly understood in this context, is part of a maintenance program for a healthy body.
Iyengar's is preeminently a practical approach seeped in the ancient traditions of India. As such there is a distinctive, but unavoidable Hindu cast to his instruction. (Separating yoga from Hinduism is like trying to unscramble an omelette.) Nonetheless Iyengar strives for a universal approach and does an excellent job of achieving it. Note this from the introduction: "Food, the supporting yet consuming substance of all life is regarded as a phase of Brahman. It should be eaten with the feeling that with each morsel one can gain strength to serve the Lord...Whether or not to be a vegetarian is a purely personal matter as each person is influenced by the tradition and habits of the country in which he was born and bred."
on August 25, 2009
It's obviously the classic of yoga books in English, and every student of the practice should have a copy. This is not a particularly useful book for the novice. Personally I find the postures mostly too extreme, but that's Iyengar Yoga. I would exercise caution and work with a qualified teacher, if you're attempting some of these postures or any of the other practices in the book. The book is also pretty poorly organized. If you want to use the suggested sequencing then you will find yourself flipping all over the book to find them. Sticky notes are your friend.
The thing that annoys me about this particular printing of the book is 1) it's a very awkward size (there are other editions that are much easier to transport and hold), 2) the binding is very poor quality and is sure to crack.
I would buy this used (hardcover or stitched binding) or buy the American edition available for much cheaper on the US sight. The book is worth 4 stars, but in light of my other points, I'm giving it 2 stars in total.
on November 6, 2011
Best pictures, with best descriptions, week by week 6 years course plan, with gradual increase of difficulty level, so that you don't have to be flexible at all when you start the first week routine, and gradually progress in flexibility. If you'll have the persistence and perseverance then in 6 years you'll become a yoga master, if not, then you'll just improve your health, looks and flexibility to some extent.
on March 22, 2013
Great book, It was an assigned reading for my yoga teacher training and it is very helpful complete with pictures.
on May 22, 2002
When most reviewers of this book refer to it as a "bible", they're not exagerating. It deals with everything one needs to know about the practice of hatha yoga. Every single pose is explained in detailed along with its benefits and there is a section regarding physical contra-indications. The written information is so dense however, that it is sometimes difficult to differenciate between one pose and another, or where one ends and the next follows. One major draw back to this edition, however, are the quality of the photographs: they are gloomy and dark b/w pictures that make some of the poses look like freak-show acts, with all do respect to Mr. Iyengar and Yoga. I must confess that if I've seen this book a year ago when I first started practicing yoga I will have skip it. But now I'm ready for it and I've read it thoroughly and have fall for it. This is a book that anyone who practices yoga must own. If you're a begginner, I will reccommend Iyengar's "Yoga: the Path to Holistic Health" which more contemporary and the 360 degree pictures are just excellent.
on December 2, 1999
Guru Iyengar's book cant be missed for whoever is interested in yoga/spirtual stuff or the like. After reading the introduction, you will have a new insight into life and I personally read the introduction many times. And the instructions for the asanas, pranayama, and the banda are indispensible for every yoga student. I bought this book 8 years ago and I was amazed and started learning how to do yoga. In the book, Guru Iyengar said you need a teacher or a guru and its true. I tried to do it without a teacher for 6 years and got very little improvement and even hurt myself. It is very important you have a teacher because the book doesnt convey those minor details which is critical in every asana poses. I now go to local Iyengar Yoga class weekly and practice daily by myself and I feel I learn much much more and benefit much much more. It takes time, but doing yoga(Hatha Yoga, asana, pranayama) will equip you with good health and you will feel you start integrating your body, mind and spirit. Its just wonderful. I dont know what else to say. Go to a local Iyengar yoga center and start go to class and practice it!
on November 4, 1999
Ever wondered why you are here? Or what we humans really are? Or how to live right? The answers are all here. The short introduction alone is worth much more than the price of the book. I have read the intro at least a dozen times, and each time I get something more out of it. (Unless you have reached a place in your life where you are "ready" to understand, many truths often pass right by unheard). And I must admit, I need to read it again now!
This book contains everything you need to know about yoga. With each pose, Mr. Iyengar explains not only how-to-do-it, but WHY-to-do-it (how the pose benefits you). Looking at the pictures, a beginner can easily be intimidated, but do not compare yourself to Mr. Iyengar, who has devoted his life to yoga. Beginners have MUCH to gain!
NOTE: (1) This book costs only a third of what you are used to paying for a book this size. NOTE: (2) Books, and especially videos, are no substitute for studying with a good teacher.
With his teachings and with this book, Mr. Iyengar has given a gift to mankind, a gift of undescribable beauty, joy, and compassion. You need this book. The world needs this book.
on July 15, 1999
Both the complete novice and the seasoned yogi will benefit from this book. Mr. Iyengar not only provides simple step by step written instructions, but also enough photographs to completely undertake the study of Yoga on an auto-tutorial basis. As long as diligent, intelligent, careful reading and imitation are observed, the serious student will benefit from the this book tremendously. However, one should pay heed to Mr. Iyengar's advice of ultimately studying with a competent instructor.
In your search for books on Yoga, this reviewer urges you NOT to be persuaded by marketable and fashionable products. The dedicated student will learn all the basic lessons of Yoga by carefully reading Light on Yoga, and through the negotiation of all 200+ poses without the aid of special props and without concern for the seemingly gargantuan task. Two important requisites for a beneficial study of Yoga are explicitly stated several times throughout the book: determination and perseverance in all aspects of life lead to success.
In its structure and content, Yehudi Menuhin's foreword exemplifies the duality of simplicity and profundity that Yoga can offer. The beauty of this book resides in its minimalistic conciseness. In this respect it is a hidden treasure as well as a faithful embodiment of the ultimate goals of yogic practice: mental, physical and spiritual development. It is also an ancient radicalism aimed at the heart of our modern quick-fixes and 30 minute workouts.
In case some of the other readers missed Mr. Iyengar's instructions with respect to the duration of each of the poses, please note the following. Light on Yoga recommends that one should always begin by GENTLY, CORRECTLY and RESPONSIBLY negotiating each pose before holding it for at least 20 seconds (a bit longer if you are physically capable). Always keep in mind that Yoga is a physical, mental and spiritual discipline. Therefore, one should take note of his or her own capacity when doing any of the asanas.
It is imperative that all poses be held for as long as possible once the CORRECT posture is GENTLY and RESPONSIBLY negotiated. After some practice one should hold each posture slightly beyond what seems to be humanly possible at the moment. Once one becomes an expert the duration can be extended according to one's personal physical capacity. The key is to first follow the advice and cautions outlined throughout the book. What follows is the classic battle of mind over matter. Learn to master the body by focusing your mind on the discomfort and use your mental powers of Self control to learn to relax the affected areas. Ultimately, the body will be strong and no longer a major concern. The mind is then free for further development. This requires patience as well as discipline, and it is what Mr. Iyengar is trying to get across. Yoga is a life-long discipline with the hidden power of providing durable results only to those who persevere. Do yourself a favor and do not look for the easy way out by searching for pretty pictures and a standardized array of time frames.
The reader, of course, is free to choose from the myriad books available, but I urge you to keep one thing in mind. Such books are NOT the treasure that you will find in Light on Yoga. Quite frankly, there is no other Yoga book on the market that even comes close to genuinely caring for the personal benefit of its reader.
Read this book, study it and take notes before reading it again and repeating the cycle indefinitely for the rest of your life. You owe it to yourself. I wish you success in your exploration of this life-changing gift from a living legend. Have faith in the ancient history that precedes your Self. With time and patience one can create a proper sequence of asanas to fit comfortably within a busy schedule and according to one's needs and capabilities. Trust me on this one.
Mr. Iyengar recently reached his 80th year of youth, health and vitality. But do not be awed by this. Neither should you worship him. Instead, admire his humility. Learn from him. Simply let him guide you. He is human...and so are you.
on May 20, 1998
Light on Yoga is a comprehensive guide to yoga asanas (poses). For each pose there is at least one photograph of the pose performed by Iyengar. He gives clear, complete instructions for performing every pose and practical suggestions for improving your practice.
For example, in his instructions for headstand he not only gives a list of correct body actions, but also suggests practicing in a corner to prevent misaligning the legs.
I met a wonderful yoga teacher who studied without a yoga instructor for ten years, following only the instructions in this book.
The book is so complete. It has wonderful instructions on basic poses and a suggested set of asanas to perform each week of your practice. For inspiration, check out the poses toward the back of the book! I aim to perform these after 20 more years of practice. :-) This book is a must-have for any yoga student.
The book gives some forward to yoga philosophy and instructions on pranyama as well, but the focus is on the asanas (poses).
My only complaint about this book is that it is so encyclopedic that it is too difficult to use while I am actually practicing yoga. I find it's too hard to keep the book open flat while I try to perform the asana. Now I try to focus on a pose every week. I reach Iyengar's instructions each night and try to put them into practice the next day.