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on November 10, 2010
After reading an excerpt from "Myths of the Asanas: the Ancient Origins of Yoga" in the October 2010 issue of "Yoga Journal" magazine, I got online and ordered a copy of the book from Amazon.com. A student of the works of Joseph Campbell and Carl Jung, I immediately recognized the authors' understanding of, and respect for the mythic tradition. The writing, like magic realism, is reminiscent of children's literature, yet contains deep truths relevant to those in all stages of life. The book is a collection of short stories: synopses of the myths which correspond with the asanas or postures familiar to contemporary practitioners of yoga. Highly informative, but not patronizing, each short section is a relaxing read which gives those who practice yoga a greater understanding of the longstanding tradition in which we take part.
I have enjoyed the book and recommend it to anyone who practices yoga or is interested in mythology/collective consciousness. My only complaint is, however, like so many things "yoga" the presentation is uber-feminine, specifically the cover art. Not everyone who practices yoga is female. Is it too much to ask the marketing gurus to take a more androgynous approach?
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on June 27, 2011
It is good that the writers are honouring the tradition of Yoga by linking the asanas to the myths. I also liked the fact that they recognise the links between the myths, asana practice and the development of personal qualities like loyalty, faith, generosity and persistence. If you are looking for a children's book, or if you just want an easy read on the myths, or perhaps (if you are a yoga teacher) an easy reference point for stories to mention in class, then this could be the book for you.
However, if you want more, if you really want to delve into the meanings of the asanas, then you need to know how to do it. For this, there are much better books on the market.
Swami Sivananda Radha's 'Hatha Yoga; the Hidden Language' brings the ancient yoga myths and the symbolism of nature together with the asanas in a more helpful way. It helps you to move to a deeper level, to take the asanas as reflective and meditation postures, observe how each one affects the mind and the body, make connections between what you are experiencing as you do your asana practice and your daily life. It also helps you to move towards deeper understanding, making your own discoveries.
Another book worth mentioning is Swami Lalitanada's 'Inner Life of Asanas'. This is a more personal illustration of working with asanas. She takes many of the poses covered in 'Myths of the Asanas' and explores insights she has had from her practice. Swami Laltananda provides instruction and takes yogic themes (such as developing awareness, exercising choice and moving towards union) to demonstrate by example, how to bring the teachings and our experiences together in our practice.
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on July 22, 2010
Highly recommended for yoga students and teachers or anyone interested in learning more about the stories behind the poses. I've always found these stories to be a bit confusing and hard to remember, but this book is written in a way that makes them very real and relatable. The graphics are lovely as well. This is a book to return to time and time again.
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on September 10, 2010
Yoga teachers have to read a ton of information and sometimes it becomes overwhelming (the yoga practice! the spiritual growth!) This book does a great job of summarizing many of the asana's origins in a light hearted way without dumbing it down. You'll find yourself enjoying the poses a little more and maybe even smiling a bit when you hear them called out in class.
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on April 19, 2011
It was great to finally find a book that breaks down the story for a lot of the yoga asana's in a crisp, concise way, all in one place. I love this book and as a yoga teacher, it is a great resource for theming my classes. For my latest class, our peak pose was Hanumanasana, and it was lovely to incorporate the story from these pages, as well as a few quotes. I will use this book again and again as a yoga teacher.
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on September 25, 2010
Myths from this book enrich a yoga class, giving students a sense of connection to the past in their yoga practice today. Good book for a teacher to have.
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on July 11, 2012
The stories and Sanskrit names of asanas used in this book are essentially from Hinduism. Yet the authors and those who have written recommendations in this book have done so without using the word Hinduism. This has been a trend in the West for some time, but it does not change the fact that Yoga came from Hinduism. Genuine traditions/schools have no reservations or fear in stating that Yoga is for everyone, but it is deeply rooted in Hinduism.

The stories are essentially Hindu, the tales Hindu children grow up with. But for yoga practitioners who have not heard these stories or known that the asanas are not just a physical culture/exercises as practiced in many places in the West, this book will be an eye-opener. The information in the book has a lot of value for such beginners.

For those who want to go deeper into Yoga, there are original works and translations available from many authentic traditions. These are written by Yoga masters, Gurus and Swamis, and available in selected book stores and University libraries. To name a few, Swami Sivananda Radha, Swami Lalithananda, Swami Rama, Swami Veda Bharathi, Swami Kuvalayananda, Swami Vishnudevananda are masters who have a lot to offer. Those who want almost all aspects of Yoga Science and Philosophy in one volume in English can refer to Mircea Eliade's intimidatingly scholarly (to the average reader) work 'Yoga: Immortality and Freedom' (This book does not instruct on how to do asanas).

Until one is ready for the study of Yoga in the higher levels, stories from Hindu scriptures will immerse the practitioner in Yoga science and philosophy. The book is well-written in an entertaining way for the popular audience, using selected versions of stories.
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on August 21, 2013
i really thought this book was inspirational for a yogi like myself. a lot of ppl practice yoga but don't have a clue about the origins of where the postures and poses come from. knowing the story of hanuman just makes struggling to get fully into hanumanasana more meaningful for me, for example. the author's thoughts are nicely integrated as well, and offer some words that have further inspired my practice. definitely a good one for yogis that are in it for more than just the good workout!
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This book was one of the recommended readings for my Yoga Teacher Training program. I decided to purchase it because in my yoga classes, I have always enjoyed when instructors have shared stories about the Hindu gods and goddesses and have connected these narratives to our practice. I also find the Sanskrit language to be fascinating, and so I love learning about the origins of the Sanskrit names for so many of the yoga postures, or asanas. Finally, as a psychologist, I believe that use of myth and metaphor can be an important tool, so that drew me to this book as well.

Authors Kaivalya and van der Kooij organize this book into four sections. There are "Poses of the Yogi," which includes basic postures such as Siddhasana and Balasana; "Poses of the Gods," addressing the mythical figures such as Hanuman (Hanumanasana) and Garuda (Garudasana); "Poses of the Sages"; and finally, the longest section "Poses of the Animals & Earth," featuring various creatures such as the peacock (Mayurasana) and structures including the the mountain pose (Tadasana). For each individual chapter, the authors share the story of the posture (usually just a few pages) in simple, accessible language. This is followed by a sort of moral discussion. For example, in the discussion of Vrikshasana (tree pose), we learn that "the true yogi freely gives the fruits of spiritual wisdom and love as generously as trees offer us shade, flowers, fruits, and wood" (p. 169). Every one of these tales and the accompanying analysis makes for both an entertaining and a thought-provoking reading.

I think it's important to add that the book itself is stunning! Although it is softcover, the pages are thick, with wonderful illustrations plus beautiful added graphics and full pages of color (mainly sage green and a deep purple, a lovely combination) between the chapter breaks. My only (minor) complaint about this book is that sometimes the language almost feels OVERLY simplified. I found this most noticeable in the very last chapter, on shavasana, where the authors mention that people in Western cultures tend to view death as "the ultimate downer" (p. 179). This almost childish wording just seemed so glaringly out of place with the rest of the book. Otherwise, however, I highly enjoyed reading THE MYTHS OF THE ASANAS, and I would highly recommend it.
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on March 3, 2015
This book is a lot of fun. It doesn't cover all the asanas but what it does cover is very interesting material for those who are not familiar with the Sanskrit names of the various half the yoga postures or of the myths and legends connected with such
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