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The Heart of Yoga: Developing a Personal Practice Paperback – March 1, 1999

ISBN-13: 978-0892817641 ISBN-10: 089281764X Edition: Revised

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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 (107 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,369 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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.

Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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The explanations are very simple and easy to understand.
Vasudevan Srinivasan
I highly recommend this book for any serious yoga student.
yoga mom
I didn't really understand yoga before reading this book.
Ebony Haywood

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

371 of 374 people found the following review helpful By Vasudevan Srinivasan on 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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118 of 118 people found the following review helpful By Patrick D. Goonan on 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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46 of 48 people found the following review helpful By Glutton for books on 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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37 of 38 people found the following review helpful By M. Lilly on June 24, 2003
Format: Paperback
This book, for me, has been wonderful. The author's tone of voice is fully inclusive, non-judgemental, and open. It invites all people to come to know the eternal meanings through study of self through yoga. He emphasizes that the most effective way to know what is the right action for yourself, in any situation, is to follow the paths of yoga to learn more about yourself and your inherent motivations.
He sees yoga as being approachable from unlimited directions. Some people will prefer pranayama (breathing) or mediation over asanas (postures) and he believes that yoga can be as unique as the yogi. In the end, all the paths of yoga lead to awareness, so it doesn't matter how you begin.
As for being non-judegmental, if you smoke, for example, he would never condemn or judge you. If that is what arises truly from within you, then so it is. He would add, i'm sure, that yoga would likely make it less necessary to smoke, but that preoccupation is not his. He is razor focused on helping the reader clarify his or her own place in the universe through yoga.
This book will likely help anyone take their yoga practice to a higher level.
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