heart of yoga

The Heart of Yoga: Developing a Personal Practice

The first yoga text to outline a step-by-step sequence for developing a complete practice according to viniyoga–yoga adapted to the needs of the individual.

• A contemporary classic by a world-renowned teacher.

• This new edition adds thirty-two poems by Krishnamacharya that capture the essence of his teachings.

Sri Tirumalai Krishnamacharya, who lived to be over 100 years old, was one of the greatest yogis of the modern era. Elements of Krishnamacharya’s teaching have become well known around the world through the work of B. K. S. Iyengar, Pattabhi Jois, and Indra Devi, who all studied with Krishnamacharya. Krishnamacharya’s son T. K. V. Desikachar lived and studied with his father all his life and now teaches the full spectrum of Krishnamacharya’s yoga. Desikachar has based his method on Krishnamacharya’s fundamental concept of viniyoga, which maintains that practices must be continually adapted to the individual’s changing needs to achieve the maximum therapeutic value.

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In The Heart of Yoga Desikachar offers a distillation of his father’s system as well as his own practical approach, which he describes as “a program for the spine at every level–physical, mental, and spiritual.” This is the first yoga text to outline a step-by-step sequence for developing a complete practice according to the age-old principles of yoga. Desikachar discusses all the elements of yoga–poses and counterposes, conscious breathing, meditation, and philosophy–and shows how the yoga student may develop a practice tailored to his or her current state of health, age, occupation, and lifestyle.

This is a revised edition of The Heart of Yoga.

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Reviews The Heart of Yoga: Developing a Personal Practice

Review 1: Excellent all around yoga resource

I own a lot of books on yoga and this is one of my favorite introductions. What makes it particularly valuable is that it explains how to construct a practice. This allows the reader to intelligently use other resources and link his or her yoga practice to overaching physical, psychological and spiritual principles.

I also found this volume to be well balanced. It covered a lot of ground and had a broad scope, but it was not overwhelming in any way. It really did a great job of covering the essentials of yoga philosophy, principles of joining breath with movement, connecting poses and varying poses.

The book also contains a good introduction to pranayama and presents the basics of the bandhas. The material on the mental and moral application of yoga are also well done, but not over done. I also liked that the book included a pronunciation guide for Sanskrit and 60 pages of a translation of parts of the yoga sutras of Patanjali with insightful commentary.

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If you are looking for a book that explains how to do particular asanas, then this isn’t your best choice although it does include a short section on Four General Practice Sequences.

This book does NOT provide detailed instruction on how to perform particular asanas. For this, you might try 30 Essential Yoga Poses by Judith Lasater, Dancing the Body of Light by Dona Holleman (a must have) or Back Care Basics by Mary Pullig Schatz M.D. (don’t let the title full you, it’s a great general introduction to yoga, especially for people starting later in life).

The Heart of Yoga will compliment any of the books above, which are not nearly as strong with respect to how to construct a yoga practice on your own.

Review 2: Interesting reading, and a source for lots of pithy quotes.

In reading this book, I was first taken by the interview at its beginning. I began bookmarking quotes for transfer to my personal noebook (taken to each class), and soon found myself with nearly every other page bookmarked! The quotes available in this book are outstanding. And not just in the interview section.

There are many interesting points Desikachar makes in his approach to asana sequencing: the importance of breath, the importance of tailoring the pose (and the sequence) to the individual, the importance of resting before engaging in a counter pose.

One of my favorite quotes from this book (attributed to the Mahabharata) is
“Speak the truth which is pleasant. Do not speak unpleasant truths. Do not lie, even if the lies are pleasing to the ear. That is the eternal law, the dharma.” To my mind this is much more practicable to practice than “Always tell the truth”.

Another is
“We can never experience our real nature if we do not expose ourselves to change”.
I take this as at once being both a caution in life style, and also in becoming too comfortable in one’s yogic pursuits, including asanas and meditation.

Then we get to “The Yoga Sutra of Patanjali” with Translation and Commentary by T.K.V. Desikachar.

“If you tell a person who cannot find their own house that there is a pot of gold inside, they would be happier had they not had this information. What use is the gold if it cannot be found? It only causes pain. First they must find the house and enter it. Then there are many possibilities.”
I take this to mean that everyone must start at the beginning…everyone must find their own house [way, path].

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His views on dualism: (3.35 “The mind, which is subject to change, and the Perceiver, which is not are in proximity but are of distinct and different characters.” as opposed to Reductionism are also presented in this book. This Dualistic approach is softened later
“Thus the mind serves a dual purpose. It serves the Perceiver by presenting the external to it. It also respects or presents the Perceiver to itself for its own enlightenment.”
leaving open the possibility of a more Reductionist interpretation.

This section of the book is the one I shall most refer to in future.

Review 3: Desikacher blends so beautifully a clear understanding of the yoga path with the …

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