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Beyond Power Yoga: 8 Levels of Practice for Body and Soul
by Beryl Bender Birch
2000

In the Western world, Yoga practice is often very Asana-centric. It seems that this would be especially true of Power Yoga, where the focus is on building heat and keeping your body physically engaged (and quite often challenged physically, too). But anyone who practices Power Yoga in its true form (as basically the Western child of K. Pattabhi Jois' Astanga Yoga) knows that there is much more to the practice than mere poses. Asana is but one branch of Yoga's eight limbs, and the other aspects involve not only mind and spirit, but also ethics, the breath and no-mind. Beryl Bender Birch revolutionized Yoga by making Astanga understandable to the Western mindset and her 1995 book, Power Yoga, is a classic. Her sequel, Beyond Power Yoga, examines the totality of Yoga practice in the same personable and informative way that her first book approached Asana.

Books about the non-physical aspects of Yoga risk being dry, but Bender Birch makes each limb vibrate with stories from her own life and a knowledge base founded on action. In the first three chapters, she also devotes a section to Asana practice in which she illustrates pertinent poses from Astanga's Primary Series. By the fourth chapter, which is about Pranayama, the focus of the practice sections shift away from Asana into breathing exercises, mantras and meditation. Interestingly, Bender Birch links each limb with one of the eight Chakras (you thought there were only seven? She makes a compelling and logical argument for one over and above the Sahasrara). This is a book that is not afraid to expand on conventional ideas of the way that Yoga's philosophies should be approached.

While Bender Birch obviously knows what she's talking about, the draw of Beyond Power Yoga is that it's steeped more in the experiential than on scholarly meanderings. Bender Birch has had a far more extraordinary life than most of us, but the little, everyday miracles that have happened to her at Starbucks, or while turning a corner on a short drive through the neighborhood show that Yoga is not something to be confined to the studio or to enlightened gurus. The meaning of Yoga is the essence of life itself, and Beyond Power Yoga encourages you to see the vast potential that lies outside of Asana.

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