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Beyond Power Yoga: 8 Levels of Practice for Body and Soul Paperback – January 4, 2000
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Yoga poses, or asanas, are just part of a traditional yoga practice, although this fact has largely been overlooked by the masses who've taken up yoga in the past several years. In astanga yoga, for example, there are eight branches, or "limbs," of yoga that each correspond to a body chakra, or energy center, which combine physical and spiritual activities to balance the energy of the body and mind. (The third limb encompasses the asanas familiar to most yoga students; the other limbs include pranayama, or mindful breathing; dharana, or concentration; dhyana, meditation; and samadhi, living joyfully.)
Learning about the eight limbs in Beyond Power Yoga, Beryl Bender Birch's follow-up to her 1995 bestseller, Power Yoga, could have been a dry and almost scholarly project, but rather is thankfully as rejuvenating as a Hawaiian yoga retreat. Birch's writing style is at once confident and soothing, and often humorous. A prime example is her explanation of the yoga concept of dharma (if you follow your dharma, you're following your universal path, or calling). Birch was newly married and mourning the passing of her dog. She was "just looking" at the pound for a Siberian husky and saw "in the flesh, the very dog I had been 'seeing' and searching for--thoroughly gorgeous, completely show quality, perfect markings, fit, strong, outgoing and very friendly, but totally wild. The dog came bounding over to me and jumped into my arms, all fifty pounds of him. There was no question God wanted me to have this dog." There was also an older, matted, underweight, crabby husky there too, which she couldn't bear to leave. So she bought both of them from the pound for $17.43, but then spent $400 at the veterinarian to have them dewormed and immunized. She and her husband needed that money for rent, and he lambasted her for her irresponsibility. The day their rent was due, they received a $400 gift from a former student, thanking the Birches for ridding him of his back pain. Birch says that the thought never occurred to her that the rent money would be a problem: "If I had been plugged into the perception that it was going to take a long time to get that $400 back, then it would have taken a long time to get the $400 back, and I could never have had those dogs."
Beyond Power Yoga includes dozens of photographs of Birch demonstrating basic asanas, including the Sun Salutation series, but for the reader looking for a full "power yoga" workout to get you good and sweaty, her first book will still be a necessity. But beginning- through advanced-yoga practitioners serious about using yoga as a path to self-fulfillment should find the information in Beyond Power Yoga to be positively life altering. --Erica Jorgensen
The New York Times Yoga that mixes sweat with serenity.
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The book illustrates a handful of Ms. Bender Birch's fascinating personal stories about how things happened "illogically." For example, she learned spiritual lessons the hard way by getting a camera stolen during a professional assignment trip. She had just taken a lot of photos at a large, rare gathering of Hindu devotees in India. Upon close examination, she realized that this very Karma was a payback to her own crime committed much earlier. In another example, she witnessed Hindu Elephant God (Ganesh) melting on a wall while on a quest in India in the 70's. Or was she simply hallucinating from drinking a spiked beverage that two young Indian students gave her?
It is also, however, her Dharma in this life time to tell us such stories. Ms. Bender Birch had an easy success at bringing Ashtanga yoga to mainstream American, but to "localize" the Eastern philosophy to contemporary America is akin to master a physical practice beyond a fourth series of Ashtanga. In her earnest attempt to act as an intermediary bridging two different philosophies, she almost succeeded. Power Yoga is more concrete that practitioners can achieve physical strength and flexibility. No tools exists to measure nirvana, eternal bliss, karmic debt, etc.
Like her first book that readers must re-read and take up yoga practice at the same time, Beyond Power Yoga requires continuing practices, reading, meditating and contemplating. To benefit Body and Soul.