Yoga Poems: Lines to Unfold By by Leza Lowitz, illustrated by Anja Borgstrom

In this small but high-yield volume, Leza Lowitz marries her twin passions—yoga and poetry—in a set of elegant poems inspired by the study and practice of yoga. The five-dozen poems collected here are organized into eight sections, each of which represents one of the eight limbs of yoga; each of the poems is named for a particular asana or breathing practice. Lowitz, who teaches yoga in Northern California, is also an accomplished writer, editor, and translator. In the course of her variegated career, she lived in Japan for five years, and it shows—she writes here with a Zenlike spareness that lends clarity both to the poems and the reader’s appreciation of the yoga experience. “Pinca Mayurasana/Peacock,” for instance, barely longer than a haiku, manages both to be airy and to pack a wallop: “When you’ve perfected/this posture/ throw it away/a peacock cannot see/the beautiful feathers/behind it.” Lowitz’s poems, which are complemented beautifully by Anja Borgstrom’s equally spare brush drawings, don’t dwell on the physical aspects of a pose; in many cases there is little or no reference to the physical act of performing the asana in question. Rather, Lowitz uses the experience of an asana as a platform from which to mine the emotional depths of the practice known as Being Alive Now, as reflected in and stirred up by hatha yoga: In this collection she writes of love, fear, childhood, attachment to the idea of “perfection,” eternity, identity, and even so personal a subject as miscarriage. Yoga Poems serves as a window onto a landscape made more vivid by the physical ingenuity and spiritual richness of yoga, and any student of yoga will find treasures to cherish within its pages.