Monday, March 9, 2009

Living Yoga, by Christy Turlington

I’ll admit it: I didn’t expect this book to be very good. I picked it up off the shelf at the library on a whim, intending to read it in the sauna at the gym. But this book far, far surpassed my expectations. Perhaps because Christy Turlington is a famous supermodel who walked the catwalk in the 90’s, I didn’t expect her grasp of yoga to be very deep. I was pleasantly surprised when the whole first section of the book was about the history of yoga going back thousands of years, the importance of the Sanskrit language, and how the various yoga traditions and styles came to be today. Turlington also speaks very poetically about yogic topics, driving home points I never thought of before.

"The breath is more intimate than anything else could ever be because it reaches the innermost spaces inside our bodies. With the breath we are never alone."

On the topic of Sanskrit, she points out its ancient pedigree and the importance of the sacred sounds of the words themselves.

By far the best point of this book is Turlington’s own story of how she came to have a strong yoga practice. Far from the self-congratulatory tone that many experienced practitioners can take, Turlington successfully weaves her own story of personal growth and vulnerability, as well as her opinions about the way that her yoga practice interacts with her life as a practicing Catholic. For instance, in the chapter on breath, she uses the experience of her father’s dying process to explore the universality and intimacy of breathing.

The one detail I was disappointed with was the lack of instruction on actual asanas—the book features beautiful pictures throughout of Turlington in poses of varying difficulty, but little explanation of them. Turlington’s informative tone makes me want her to turn that attention towards the poses.

Overall, this book was a beautiful, informative, and relaxing read, and I’ve actually read it several times since checking it out. If you are already a yogi and are looking to deepen your practice, this book gets a strong recommendation.

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