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Bringing Yoga to Life: The Everyday Practice of Enlightened Living by Donna Farhi

By Phil Catalfo

HarperSanFrancisco

Renowned yoga teacher Donna Farhi might just as well have titled her new book Bringing Your Life to Life with Yoga, for the somewhat confusing phrasing of her title belies the simple yet powerful message of her book: "What yoga [promises]...is that through sincere, skillful, and consistent practice, anyone can become peaceful, happy, and free." This work is a thorough, highly readable, very rewarding discussion of how to do exactly that.

The genius of yoga practice, Farhi explains, is that it "takes into account the very messy and often complex phenomenon of what we call a human being and the equally challenging task of everyday living." And so she makes clear from the opening paragraphs that her latest offering is not a standard yoga manual. Having already written a highly regarded book on breathwork (The Breathing Book, Henry Holt, 1996) and a top-notch guide to asana practice (Yoga Mind, Body & Spirit, Henry Holt, 2000), she has here set her sights on something more vast and essential: awakening.

Accordingly, Farhi, a onetime Yoga Journal Asana columnist who travels from her home in New Zealand to conduct yoga workshops and classes around the world, offers nary a photo or illustration--or even a discussion--of a single pose. Instead, she provides some 240 pages of thoughtful exposition.

Using Patanjali's Yoga Sutra ("a treatise of 196 terse aphorisms that delineate the process of becoming whole") as a springboard, but also drawing from the Bhagavad Gita and the Upanishads as well as teachings from the Buddhist tradition, Farhi devotes the 20 chapters to a nuanced exploration of the deeper aims of yoga practice as well as the means of and obstacles to achieving them. She urges us to view yoga as "life practice," by which she means "an ongoing inquiry into how to be completely engaged and intimate with the wild force that runs through everything and is running through us, if we would but pause long enough to notice."

Throughout, her confident, compassionate voice encourages us to deepen our practice and elevate our aims, to be unhampered by fear and self-recrimination, to allow ourselves simply to be. The net result of her wise and eloquent discourse is that by helping us see how we might "awake to a life that lives itself through us every day," she has bestowed a profound blessing on us--and illuminated the yoga tradition for the 21st century.


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