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Yoga: The Spirit and Practice of Moving Into Stillness
by Erich Schiffmann
1996

Those only slightly aware of Yoga know Erich Schiffmann as the instructor in Ali McGraw's artsy video, Yoga Mind and Body. Those more deeply ensconced in the Yoga community know Schiffmann as an excellent and world-renowned teacher. Reading this book makes it clear why Schiffmann is well-respected amongst his peers - it is the most descriptive, articulate and enchanting Yoga book written to date by a Westerner. Not only does Schiffmann explain how to do Yoga's poses, he also imparts the magical feeling behind Yoga. Anyone can give out instructions; only someone with a gift for teaching can fill you with inspiration. Schiffmann is definitely a master.

Schiffmann's background in itself is something special. His early Yoga practice and spiritual searching brought him face-to-face with both Jiddu Krishnamurti and B.K.S. Iyengar. He learned well from these men and he has translated their Eastern teachings into something that is both comprehensible and inviting to the most materialistic of Western sensibilities. Yoga is not really about static poses, as anyone familiar with the practice will tell you - it's about working with energy. Schiffmann taps into that aspect of Yoga before he ever gets to the postures, and he explains clearly what practicing Yoga should feel like. Most importantly, he devotes a chapter to "Playing the Edge," something that should form part of the foundation of any Yoga practice - if the practitioner wants to progress in his or her work.

The chapters that focus on the Asanas contain crisp black and white photographs and give extremely detailed instructions on how to move, when to breathe and precise alignment. But the Asanas are only part of Yoga, and Schiffmann also pays very careful attention to breathing, meditation and self-realization. No matter our culture, we are all searching for a sense of inner peace and union, and Schiffmann is both simple and eloquent when he approaches these subjects. As someone on the path himself, he speaks from experience, and his guidance is both loving and intuitive. This is a wonderful book for the Yoga beginner, and more experienced Yogis will appreciate its depth and heart.

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