A Yogi’s reading list for Santa…

5th December 2015 by Marie Harris

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Dear Santa,
I have over 200 books on my Amazon wishlist and 99% of them are yoga related.  Any of them will do, I like a surprise! I’ll send you the link via Whatsapp.  There’s an offer on at the moment – if you buy three items before next Friday you get 20% off a 12 month subscription to Samadhi and a pair of sparkly toe-socks (hint hint!)
Also if the elves have any spare time I’d like some new shelves. One of them should be exactly 122.4cm high so that I can get my foot on it to practice Utthita hasta padangusthasana without falling on my arse, it needs to be adjustable so I can go 10cm higher each Christmas – then hopefully by 2018 the only split in my house won’t be the dodgy split pea roast that the in-laws keep bringing over.
I’ve been a good girl this year, I’ve worked hard on my asana, my pranayama, pratyahara, dharana and getting my yamas and niyamas as in order. I know that you’re busy so I thought you might like some advice on what to get the other well behaved kids if they ask for a yoga book…
1. For the Ashtanga beginner….
Ashtanga Yoga: The Practice Manual 
This is an incredibly user friendly guide to the Primary and Intermediate series of Ashtanga yoga.  The practice guides are clear with plenty of pictures and easy to understand instructions which cover the foundations (e.g. Breath, bandha, drishti), the  asana (postures) and the vinyasa (movements between postures). If readers aren’t ready to turn themselves into a preztel David gives a selection of more accessible alternatives.  The book includes a section with sequences for shorter practice times from 15min, 30min, 45min. Plus it’s spiral bound so there’s no need to faff with weighting the pages down as your going to the next asana.  David Swenson is a great teacher and communicator, in fact Santa I think you guys would get along.
2. For the fiction loving philosopher…
How Yoga Works 
by Geshe Michael Roach
Get to know the yoga sutras and curl up for story-time by the fire. How Yoga Works tells the  heartwarming tale of a Tibetan girl that is held captive in an Indian police station.  While there she begins to teach yoga.  The story follows the challenging relationship she has with her first student (who is also the Captain of the station) and how, through yoga, she gradually ignites positive changes in the people around her.  Roach weaves in sections from Patanjali’s yoga sutras and the context of the narrative makes these philosophical concepts quite digestible even if it is close bed time.
3. For the academic & the history buffs…
Yoga Body: The Origins of Modern Posture Practice
by Mark Singleton
Mark Singleton explores the roots of yoga and questions whether the origins of the posture based practices are as ancient as is so commonly believed.  He discusses the impact of modern influences on yoga such as Indian Nationalism and physical culture in Europe and America.  In his conclusion he critiques the idea that ”fitness’ is somehow opposed to the ‘spiritual” and posits the notion of physical training as a spiritual practice.  Singleton’s book has been a little controversial in some yoga groups, perhaps upsetting some ancient (and of course ‘authentic’) apple carts.
Santa you’ve been travelling the world for years, I’m sure you’ve witnessed the complex intermingling of cultures and practices (spiritual and not) as they wax, wane, clash and intertwine – what do you think?
4. For the biography lovers looking for a bit of Mysore Magic…
Guruji: A Portrait of Sri K. Pattabhi Jois Through the Eyes of His Students
by Guy Donahaye and Eddie Stern
Well Santa this is one of my favourites.  Alongside a portrait of Guruji this book presents a portrait of the power of the Ashtanga system and the passion of the individuals who practice it.  The book is a collection of interviews held with a selection of Pattabhi Jois’ students – starting with those that were in the shala in the 70’s e.g. David Williams and Nancy Gilgoff, his grandson Sharath and other dedicated students of his, including Dena Kingsberg, John Scott and Rolf Naujokat.  They openly document their nerves, difficulties, opinions, dedication and gratitude for the practice.  Santa if you ever lose your yoga mojo to the January blues dip into this and it’ll get you right back on your mat!
5. For those that prefer pictures…
Photographs by Graeme Montgomery
This is a collection of beautifully taken portraits of Pattabhi Jois, his students and Mysore.  There are atmospheric black and white portraits and images of people practicing in the shala (when the rugs still had a fair bit of colour!). It’s an aesthetically amusing mix of serious drishti’s and smiling faces.  I believe it’s also out of print, so a rare find if you get a copy.
6. For the anatomy geeks…
Functional Anatomy of Yoga: A Guide for Practitioners and Teachers
David Keil
Santa, if you’re wondering whether you should squeeze your gluteus maximus while backbending down a chimney give this one a read.  When David’s book was about to be released the yoga community was very excited (and rightly so), so if it’s on someone’s list I’d probably get it, we don’t want any tears.
David presents anatomy in an easy to understand way so you don’t have to be a medical professional to understand it.  It includes introductory information on the muscular, skeletal and nervous systems before going into further detail on the structure and function of key areas of the body such as the knee and hip.  David delves into anatomical patterns in yoga postures such as twists and backbends and discusses the impact of anatomical variation.  He address some common yogi problems, like sit bone pain and gets a thumbs up from me for acknowledging debates over technique – there is no one size fits all!
7. For the sporty kids…
Yoga for Runners and Yoga for Cyclists
by Lexie Williamson
These are two very well presented, books.  They cover the demands of running and cycling on different areas of the body such as the glutes, IT band, hamstrings, neck and back.  Both books include sections on the respiratory system and appropriate breathing techniques for each sport.  They also cover training the mind – so for any kids looking to improve their PB, reduce their intake of mince pies and stay injury free, these are much more than a stocking filler.   Lexie gives clear posture guides with variations to suit the individual.  There’s also a series of mini-sequences for warm-up, recovery and strength building.
8. For the naughty kids…
These kids don’t need books, they need to practice! Pick them up in your sleigh and get Dasher to drop them on a yoga mat pronto!
Safe travels Santa!
Marie X
P.S. I’ve left some organic locally grown carrots out for Rudolf and a raw, vegan, gluten free, low Gi agave mince pie for yourself – they’re next to a glass of kombucha, which is 47% so go steady, ok it’s not kombucha its gin, but you know it’s Christmas!
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By Marie Harris

I began practicing yoga over 10 years ago, muddling through books and videos at home. Several years ago I attended Matt Ryan’s Sunday evening class for the first time and it marked a major turning point in my practice – I delved deeper and…

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