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Yoga: A Gem for Women
by Geeta S. Iyengar

This book, originally written in the 1980s, shows how differently Yoga is perceived in its home country of India from the Western world. While women have been more than half of the Yoga practitioners in the U.S. for decades, for a long time there were very view serious Yoginis in India. The practice was often given up with marriage and motherhood, and women were discouraged from attempting the more athletic Yoga Asanas. In the years since this book was written, Yoga has become even more popular in the West, and in India, more women are making Yoga a part of their lives (more a statement on the changing times than anything else). One woman who was on the forefront of the growing Yoga movement in the twentieth century - and continues into the twenty-first - is Geeta Iyengar, daughter of one of the world's great Yoga masters, B.K.S. Iyengar. She wrote this book especially for women.

Yoga: A Gem for Women is not the absolute best Yoga book you will ever find (actually, choosing "the best" is nearly impossible, although her father's Light on Yoga is definitely up there). But it is still an excellent, informative work, especially when it comes to addressing women's specific needs. Ms. Iyengar began practicing Yoga as a ten-year-old only because she had to - she was so ill that she almost died, and her father, unable to afford the medical bills any longer, told her she had to practice Yoga or wait for the end. From this dire beginning, Ms. Iyengar became the world-renowned expert she is today, and this book is a distillation of that knowledge. Like her father, Ms. Iyengar emphasizes Yoga's therapeutic aspects, so you'll find out which Asanas are good for menstrual problems, pregnancy and menopause. She's also big on props - an especially good thing when she discusses practice for pregnant women. Another nice aspect of the book is the photographs of Ms. Iyengar and her sister Vanita Sridharan (who was photographed during her third trimester of pregnancy) - not only do these women have perfect form, they have real bodies, not the tiny, wispy frames most people associate with female Yoga practitioners. It's a subtle reminder that you don't have to be built like a fashion model to be a Yogini.

Along with the Asanas, Ms. Iyengar also introduces the reader to Yoga's philosophy, pranayama and meditation. The book covers all bases in with a clear, albeit rather dry, writing style. Ms. Iyengar doesn't dazzle you with flashy explanations; she lets the information speak for itself. And we Westerners could always use a little less flash and a little more substance.

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