If you’ve read five or more yoga books over the past decade, odds are one of them was B.K.S. Iyengar’s Light on Yoga (Schocken Books). The 1966 classic has become the yardstick against which other asana guidebooks are measured: It is comprehensive, clear, insightful, and always instructive. The only problem is that it’s not an inviting book—the black-and-white photos are somewhat gloomy (even though the asanas are often awe-inspiring), and the text is formatted so densely that it’s often hard to pick out where the instructions for one asana end and the next one begin.
Happily, Iyengar’s first new asana book in 35 years, Yoga: The Path to Holistic Health, goes a long way toward transcending those shortcomings and is a beautiful addition to the yoga literature of the twenty-first century.
Featuring nearly 2,000 color photos and with the reader-friendly graphic design DK Publishing is
famous for, the new book is not as comprehensive as the older volume (it includes about one-third
as many asanas as Light on Yoga), but it is more accessible and visually engaging. Some asanas are
photographed from multiple angles, the resulting panorama giving even novices a clear image of
the pose they’re striving to achieve.
After a couple of introductory chapters, there are some 200 pages of asana instruction followed by
nearly 150 pages of “Yoga for Ailments”—sequences illustrated with smaller versions of the same photos
used in the earlier chapters. Lastly, there is a “20-Week Yoga Course,” a much less extensive version
of the 275-week program outlined in Light on Yoga, but, again, a more accessible one for beginners.
Some of the material contained in Yoga: The Path to Holistic Health is drawn from Yoga for You, a
CD-ROM set issued by DK Publishing a couple of years ago, but most of what’s here is new. The entire
presentation is at once lavish and authoritative, as you would expect from the world’s best-known
yoga teacher. At $40 this book is not cheap, and its coffee-table dimensions and hardcover format
make it too hefty to be practical as a flip-the-pages-and-learn-to-do-it guide. Besides, the spine
would either prevent propping the book open or deteriorate from it. There is perhaps too much
emphasis for most readers on props, a well-known characteristic of Iyengar Yoga, in the sense that
most students’ budgets will probably not support buying all the props shown here. But these are
minor complaints; this is a fitting bookend to the master’s earlier book and an important addition
to the literature of asana.