- Hardcover: 263 pages
- Publisher: Ashtanga Yoga Productions; 2nd edition (August 20, 2007)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1891252089
- ISBN-13: 978-1891252082
- Product Dimensions: 8.1 x 0.9 x 8.7 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 292 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #12,117 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Ashtanga Yoga: The Practice Manual Hardcover – August 20, 2007
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"The Most User-Friendly Yoga Book Ever Produced"
About the Author
David Swenson began the practice of yoga in 1969 at the age of 13. He found Ashtanga in 1973 through David Williams. In 1974 K. Pattabhi Jois made his first trip to the US and David began studies directly with him at that time. He then traveled to Mysore, India in 1977 and learned the entire system in it's original form. David is recognized today as one of the foremost authorities of Ashtanga Yoga.
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If you are looking for a deeper analysis of all the asanas, the vinyasa count as well as some Ashtanga yoga philosophy, I would recommend checking out Gregor Maehle's "Ashtanga Yoga: Practice & Philosophy" which breaks the postures down on an anatomical level and has an in depth commentary/translation of the yoga sutras by Patanjali. Also Pattabi Jois' "Yoga Mala" will give you a deeper insight as to the benefits of each posture as he learned them from Krishnamacharya and talks more about the therapeutic benefits of each of the asanas.
- It's a binder book so pages are easy to flip
- Each position in the series is shown visually in a variety of levels: the final level to aim for, and the "easier" levels to aim for if you are not there yet. This makes the book very safe and appropriate for beginners. And also less discouraging.
- In addition to the full photos of the above, you get step by step procedures and transitions, as well as guidelines on what to work on while you are in the position.
Downsides: I wish it was less heavy and came in color. Ideally there should be a Kindle version for traveling and audio playlist for each position, so that you can practice on the go. Right now the book is too heavy to travel with.
Although David Swenson was not certified by Sri K Pattahbi Jois, it doesn't affect his ability to teach in person or on the page. I had the pleasure of attending one of his workshops in his adopted city of Austin, and his regard and humility toward every single student--no matter their understanding (or lack thereof) of Ashtanga, was an investment that remains with me and my adherence to this book.
The best way to start out learning the practice of Ashtanga yoga is by personal, led instruction in a classroom. I recommend a sold background in hatha yoga and familiarity with the basic asanas, including Suyra Namaskara A &B (Sun Salutations), Ado Mukha Svanasana, Urdhva Mukha Svanasana, (Downward and Upward-facing Dog), Virabhadrasana (I-III), Trikonasana, and others of the standard and oft-used asanas. My use of the Sanskrit is not to show off my linguistic talents, but to emphasize that Ashtanga Yoga does not use the English names to illustrate their asanas (poses). The Sanskrit names are actually more than a phonetic term. They help you to go deeper into the poses--something understood as you practice.
I am always sorry to hear people shy away from yoga because they think that they can't perform the pretzel poses or they worry that they have no flexibility. The truth is--yoga, which means means "yoke" or "unite," is the beautiful unity of breath and body, of breath and movement. Can you breathe? If you can, then you can do yoga. And David Swenson makes that perfectly clear in his book.
Swenson starts the book by defining the eight limbs of yoga: (and in this case I will give English terms for understanding) ethical disciplines (yama), self-observation (niyama), posture (asana), breath control (pranayama), sense withdrawal (pratyahara), concentration (dharana), meditation (dhyana), and state of joy and peace (samadhi). The practice of Ashtanaga noursihes the eight-limbs.
"Through regulation of practice, the eight limbs are nourished. Personal insights begin to manifest. We become aware of what we put in our bodies and how we interact with the world around us." This is just a small part of the text.
Next, Swenson teaches Ujjayi breathing (oceanic or warrior breathing), the foundation of Ashtanga physical practice, in a simple and straightforward manner. Without the proper breathing method, you aren't doing yoga. According to Swenson, if one practices the advanced series without the proper breathing, then one is just doing gymnastics, i.e. yoga isn't about twisting yourself into a pretzel. It is about intention, mindfulness, and movement combined with breath.
He teaches about the Bhandas, the locks of the body--defining and teaching technique so that you can practice with intention and technical correctness. He explains vinyasa, which is linking one asana to the next via the marriage of breath and movement, and one of the unique aspects of Ashtanga practice.
The page by page illustrations of the practice also include ways to adjust asanas as a beginner or even a novice while you are working to go to go deeper and deeper into each pose. There is nothing in the practice that Swenson leaves out. These illustrations are so practical and accessible that I doubt you will ever be stuck or confused. His text is clear and precise, and not without a touch of wit and wisdom, without any pious or rigid superiority.
I do own David Swenson's DVD, which was made in the early days of yoga videos and, although an adjunct to the book, is not his finest teaching tool. He wears the microphone, and the sound gets buried every time he bends or dips his head, and the one-camera action is limiting to a three-dimensional practice. This is one case where I would definitely recommend the book as the superlative teaching tool over a DVD demonstration.
The spiral-bound pages are user-friendly and the thick, high-quality paper is solid and substantial. At the end of the book, he also includes the complete and photographed series in non-segmented and visual reference so that the reader can see the practice as a "colorful tapestry in motion" and "mandala of movement." He links Surya Namaskara A & B, the Standing Sequence, Primary, and Finishing Sequence.
As a bonus, he includes short forms for the busy practitioner (or if you are short on time) and the Intermediate Series in photos. A purist may balk at the abbreviated series, but Swenson is as pragmatic as he is mindful. David Swenson communicates Ashtanga Yoga beautifully, in a way that brings the layman to the practice, and he understands that sometimes East meets West in innovative ways. However, he is no short-cut artist; it is obvious that Swenson practices the full regimen six days/week. If your aim is to purify your practice, his book will give you essential guidelines and tools.
Most recent customer reviews
Very well explained & easy to follow with clear diagrams.