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Yoga: The Poetry of the Body by Rodney Yee with Nina Zolotow

Yee's joyful and famously artful approach is successfully translated to the printed page.

By Phil Catalfo

St. Martin's Griffin/Thomas Dunne Books

"When you take a class from Rodney Yee," his collaborator Nina Zolotow writes, "the first thing you notice is the passion with which he teaches. His tremendous energy and just plain joy sweep you along so that two hours of a demanding physical 'workout' become an all-absorbing, inspiring experience."

Translating Yee's joyful (and famously artful) approach to the printed page was surely a challenge, and Rodney and Nina could easily have capitalized on his fame and prominence to "phone in" a boilerplate text that would have satisfied the insatiable demand for yoga books but not offered anything new. Happily, they have remained true to the spirit of Yee's teaching style—as well as the ineffable spirit of yoga—in their collaboration.

They offer a series of practices characterized not by the technical categories of the poses (e.g., standing poses, twists, etc.) but by the personalities of the sequences: a "playful" practice, a "falling" practice (designed to show that "yoga poses are not held but are a constant dialogue in finding center"), a "grounding" practice, and so on.

The text is embellished with excerpts from the work of some of the world's most appealing poets (Robinson Jeffers, Pablo Neruda, Emily Dickinson, Czeslaw Milosz, et al.), but even without those welcome additions, it is accessible, insightful, and engaging. The poses are modeled (by Yee and his wife, Donna Fone) as expertly as you might expect, but they are never intimidating; what's more, the 400-plus, black-and-white images (by Michael Venera) are simply beautiful.

Perhaps the most unique contribution Yee and Zolotow make to the yoga-guide genre is the collection of dialogues, by turns playful and probing, that offer refreshing, thought-provoking interludes between the instructional chapters. All told, a splendid job, raising just one question: How come more yoga books can't be like this?

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