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The Complete Illustrated Book of Yoga
by Swami Vishnu-Devananda
1960/1995

As a young man in the mid-twentieth century, Swami Vishnu-Devananda was one of the gurus who brought Yoga to the West, many years before Asana practice became trendy. This book, originally published in 1960 when he was but 33 years old, has become one of the standard texts on Yoga. While several editions of this book have been released over the years, the body of the text remains the same. As a result, The Complete Illustrated Book of Yoga may be rough going for many modern-day readers, since it doesn't have the friendly accessibility of books more recently written. Swami Vishnu-Devananda's approach is both thorough and rather austere, and the many photos of him in advanced Yoga Asanas are both intimidating and impressive. In spite of all of this (or perhaps because of it), this book is required reading for anyone who is serious about exploring all aspects of Yoga.

Like other books on Yoga, a good portion of The Complete Illustrated Book of Yoga is devoted to Asana (139 pages of 363, to be exact), but actually this is the least useful section. B.K.S. Iyengar goes over the same terrain in a far more accessible manner. More important are the chapters that address Yoga philosophy, spirituality and Pranayama - all areas that many Westerners only superficially understand at best. The chapter on Yogic cleansing is also of interest, although it's doubtful that many Westerners will be compelled to try it out (the descriptions of neti, or nasal cleansing, and cloth purification sound particularly unpleasant). Vishnu-Devananda is adept at delving into Yoga's many facets and these chapters require contemplation from those who aspire to be Yogis, and not mere Yoga hobbyists.

Keep in mind that The Complete Illustrated Book of Yoga is a misnomer - Yoga is far too big of a subject to cover completely in one book. But if you already own a few books by Iyengar, along with Patanjali's Yoga Sutras, then you may want to make this book your next purchase.

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