30 Essential Yoga Poses: For Beginning Students and Their Teachers by Judith Lasater

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Rodmell Press; www.rodmellpress.com.

Master teacher Judith Lasater, a longtime YJ contributor (she was one of the magazine’s founders) and author of several worthwhile yoga books, has written the book she will be remembered for if and when she ever retires from her accomplished teaching career. Neither a bare-bones primer nor a be-all yoga guide, 30 Essential Yoga Poses combines the best qualities of both types of books: It is comprehensive enough in scope and detail to be a highly valuable reference, but limited enough to be accessible to beginners. At the same time, it speaks intelligently to experienced students and teachers, who will eagerly integrate Lasater’s more nuanced guidance and insights.

After a brief introductory discussion, Lasater devotes the bulk of the book, naturally enough, to the poses themselves. She begins the description of each pose with an overview (including the pose’s proper place in a practice sequence, its primary benefits, and noteworthy cautions), followed by an explication of the “essential” pose and its variations. Then she adds an element rarely seen in popular yoga guides: “Especially for Teachers,” a trenchant analysis of the primary adjustment teachers will likely need to make and the main focus they should aim to elicit in their students in the pose (for example, using the sacrum “as the anchoring focus” while lifting into Cobra Pose).

This glimpse of the subtleties behind teaching stands to accelerate students’ understanding, of course. Beyond that, pondering (even fleetingly) the concerns of teachers will assist students in forging more intelligent relationships with their instructors. The author concludes with “The Practice,” a section that gives readers a chance to establish a broad view of the discipline and integrate specific sequences into their lives.

Visually, the book is at once light and airy (with lots of white space on the pages) and colorful (with crisp images provided by photographer David Martinez, a frequent YJ contributor). Seattle yoga teacher Theresa Elliott models the poses impeccably. And the text is always straightforward and helpful, never patronizing or overreaching. The closest thing to a flaw that I could find—it’s stretching the point even to mention it—was the passage titled “Sequencing and Why It Matters,” which I wished were longer. But the truth is that, in its three brief paragraphs, Lasater conveys the basic concepts one needs to know about the subject. Not to put too fine a point on it, 30 Essential Yoga Poses is one of the best yoga guides we’ve seen in the past several years.

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