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The Heart of Yoga: Developing a Personal Practice [Paperback]

T. K. V. Desikachar
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (104 customer reviews)

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Book Description

March 1, 1999 089281764X 978-0892817641 Revised
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. 

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.

Frequently Bought Together

The Heart of Yoga: Developing a Personal Practice + Light on Yoga: Yoga Dipika + The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali
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Editorial Reviews

Review

“Read this book from cover to cover and you will begin to understand what yoga is all about.” (The Sunday Times)

“Those who are interested in understanding what yoga is about, those who are looking for a larger context and focus for their hatha practice, those who look to the Yoga Su-tra for guidance, and all those who have loved and benefited from Krishnamacharya and/or Desikachar, directly or indirectly, will want this book.” (Yoga International)

“An invaluable source of information regarding the theory and practice of yoga. A must for students and teachers alike.” (Indra Devi, author of Yoga for You)

“Desikachar speaks from the heart with tenderness as well as an engineer's careful attention to details and individuality.” (LA Yoga, January 2011)

"I can think of no better book to recommend to a friend beginning to be excited by yoga but bewildered by the plethora of different schools and their sometimes-conflicting teachings. In addition, I would be hard-pressed to think of a book I would recommend more highly to any yoga student seeking to deepen a yoga practice . . . The great gift of  The Heart of Yoga lies not simply in the depth of Desikachar's learning, but in the compassion, gentleness, practicality, and down-to-earth spirit that permeate the book." (Yoga Journal)

" . . . a milestone in the transmission of yoga from the ancient masters to the modern world." (Bodhi Tree Book Review, Winter 1999 / Spring 2000)

From the Back Cover

YOGA

“I can think of no better book to recommend to a friend beginning to be excited by yoga but bewildered by the plethora of different schools and their sometimes‑conflicting teachings. In addition, I would be hard‑pressed to think of a book I would recommend more highly to any yoga student seeking to deepen a yoga practice . . . The great gift of The Heart of Yoga lies not simply in the depth of Desikachar’s learning, but in the compassion, gentleness, practicality, and down‑to‑earth spirit that permeate the book.”
--Yoga Journal

“Read this book from cover to cover and you will begin to understand what yoga is all about.”
--The Sunday Times

“Those who are interested in understanding what yoga is about, those who are looking for a larger context and focus for their hatha practice, those who look to the Yoga Su-tra for guidance, and all those who have loved and benefited from Krishnamacharya and/or Desikachar, directly or indirectly, will want this book.”
--Yoga International

“An invaluable source of information regarding the theory and practice of yoga. A must for students and teachers alike.”
--Indra Devi, author of Yoga for You

Śrī 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 in their early years. 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 teaching, which maintains that practices must be continually adapted to the individual’s changing needs to achieve the maximum therapeutic value.

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. Krishnamacharya placed the highest value on Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra, which is included here in its entirety, with a translation and commentary by Desikachar. Added to this second edition of The Heart of Yoga is the Yogān͂jalisāram--thirty‑two poems composed by Krishnamacharya that capture the essence of his teachings and further make The Heart of Yoga a milestone in the transmission of yoga from the ancient masters to the modern world. A structural engineer by training, T. K. V. Desikachar lived and studied with his father until Krishnamacharya’s death in 1989. He has devoted his life to yoga instruction for people of all backgrounds and all levels of ability, and currently teaches at the school founded in his father’s memory in Madras, as well as in Europe, the United States, Australia, and New Zealand.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 244 pages
  • Publisher: Inner Traditions; Revised edition (March 1, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 089281764X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0892817641
  • Product Dimensions: 10.1 x 8.1 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (104 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,588 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
370 of 373 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How to understand yoga? July 10, 2002
Format:Paperback
No introduction is needed for the author (son of famous yogacharya Sri T Krishnamacharya). I got interested in yoga after reading his series of articles in Indian magazines in late 1980s. First of all, this book is not an explanation of yoga poses (I recommend Light on Yoga for that). I first bought the book thinking its another book about yoga poses. But I was wrong. This book is exactly what the title says - how to develop a personal practice. The emphasise of the book is for the practitioner to observe himself/herself and see how he/she can augment the benefits of the poses. This is an invaluable and a very important step in learning yoga.
Now, everytime I read it I find it throws more light on understanding yoga. I used to do yogic poses mechanically, but now I have a different perspective. The book really makes you think about an asana and how to improve yourself to benefit from it (the term for this is viniyoga). The emphasis is on gradually learning and enjoying each pose instead of hurrying to accomplish some asana. There are several tips for maximizing the benefits of asanas - for eg counterposes, developing breathing techniques by observing oneself etc. The explanation is lucid, the writing is so simple and effective. Several common questions are answered in Q&A format which is very helpful.
The second part of the book contains Patanjali's yoga sutras in Sanskrit and followed by explanations in English. (Yoga sutras are the foundations of yogas in other words - the heart of yoga). The explanations are very simple and easy to understand.
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117 of 117 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent all around yoga resource March 16, 2006
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
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.

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.
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45 of 47 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Required reading for understanding yoga March 9, 2005
Format:Paperback
I am dismayed that so many members think of yoga as part of a new age mentality that is the antithesis of religion or an alternative to any faith. "The Heart of Yoga" by Desikachar does much to dispel this myth. Yoga is not a religion, although for the vast part of its existence has been practiced by people who have adhered to Hinduism. Yoga is a comprehensive approach to mental and physical health, which may fall under the rubric of alternative health systems, but as it has existed for millennia, there is nothing "new" about its age.

Desikachar's book discusses the history of yoga and its practicality for today. A copy of Patanjali's "Yoga Sutra" is included in the appendix of the book. The Yoga Sutra is a collection of inspirational maxims for how to approach life. In some of their writing they acknowledge one's connection to a divine entity, or a concept greater than our selves, but it never defines this entity or commands any sort of conceptualization for what many would refer to as God.

Yoga is more than just a series of poses, which have gained popularity as an exercise fad. It is a philosophy that commands the respect of life and recommends dietary practices to purges the body of yama, which we could be referred to as toxins; the accumulation of which make a person prone to disease and mental anxiety. Poses also have therapeutic benefits in that they release hormones and antibodies in addition to toxins, by compressing, stretching, and releasing various glands and muscles of the body.
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47 of 50 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback
The name, T. K. V. Desikachar, is significant in the world of hatha yoga in the West. The famed teacher Krishnamacharya is his father, and B. K. S. Iyengar is his uncle.

The book begins with an "interview" with Desikachar. The questions are about Krishnamacharya's philosophy and method of teaching yoga. It is revealing to read how his (and Desikachar's) approach to teaching and hatha style is quite different from that of his two famous students, Iyengar and Pattabhi Jois. Readers who have no emotional connection to Krishnamacharya, or just want to know asanas, may have little interest in this background. However for yoga teachers, it is quite informative on asana teaching styles, goals for asana practice, and interpretation of yoga.

The most useful and satisfying parts of the book are the following chapters that are about developing a personal practice: Foundations of Yoga Practice, The Principles of Asana Practice, The Careful Construction of a Yoga Practice, and Asana Variations. Here you do learn how to understand an asana and the importance of developing a personal asana practice. Many out-of-the-box asana adaptations indicate deep understanding about body movements. The approach in this book is gentle and therapeutic. It is not about challenging asana practice. The therapeutic aspect, a welcome change, is usually lacking in yoga practitioners and most mainstream yoga books. Four general practice sequences at the end of the book are a good start. The reader senses right away that this is the author's comfort zone and area of expertise.

Then come the chapters on what is the "heart of yoga," Patanjali's Yoga Sutras. The author considers the sutras to be the most important text on yoga.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars Yoga is probably the 20th century's biggest con
Yoga is probably the 20th century's biggest con. You'll find "Yoga" houses all over any part of a city where the yuppies have taken over. Read more
Published 11 days ago by Bartok Kinski
5.0 out of 5 stars I love this book!
I have only gotten about half of the way through this book but I have already learned so much! So many different aspects of my practice have changed and I have this book to thank. Read more
Published 24 days ago by Chelsea Litton
5.0 out of 5 stars Inspiring
Very good and easy reading book about Yoga. Lot's of tips that we can use for your dayly yoga routine.
Thanks a lot.
Published 2 months ago by infinity
4.0 out of 5 stars Great authoritative understanding of yoga.
This is an in-depth reading of yoga. Not for the beginner. This book provides insight to understanding yoga as a way of life and not just as a routine of poses. Read more
Published 4 months ago by David C. Gifford
5.0 out of 5 stars Thorough overview
This is a great book for new and experienced students/teachers of yoga. It offers a wealth of information that may get missed in a traditional yoga teacher training and is written... Read more
Published 4 months ago by Lenny
5.0 out of 5 stars ♡ of yoga
Now I understand Yoga ♡ Thank you, Desikachar ♡
So easily explained about Yoga's many confusing questions :) Highly recommended!
Published 4 months ago by kaja olsen
5.0 out of 5 stars A "Bible" for any studying Yogi.
I would recommend this book to everyone who would like to learn about what "Yoga" is. I feel it should be a required read for all Western Medical students as well as all... Read more
Published 4 months ago by S Holbrook
5.0 out of 5 stars A Perfect Start to Learning Yoga
This is a great starting point for those who want to experience more than exercise from their Yoga practice. Read more
Published 4 months ago by John Allcorn
5.0 out of 5 stars beautifully written
So much clarity in the words. So thoughtfully written. This is a must have for everyone:). I will be re- reading this book:).
Published 4 months ago by Innov8ion
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Book!
Loaned my original copy out, so ordered this one as a replacement.
If you have not yet read it, order one for yourself.
Published 4 months ago by Deneece Gabbard
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