Over the past several months, I’ve reviewed some popular yoga books here on Om Shanti. These reviews were fairly conventional in their style and format — i.e., I provided a basic overview of the book, without revealing too much, and mentioned a few things about each book that I liked. The next book on my reading list, though, deserves a closer look. It’s Yoga for a World Out of Balance: Teachings on Ethics and Social Action
by Michael Stone (Shambhala Publications, 2009).
Instead of writing a standard review, I’d like to explore this book over the course of several posts, conducting something like an online read-along. In each post, I will provide a brief summary of a chapter, followed by my own commentary, thoughts, and reflections. I invite others to join the discussion. The obvious way to do this would be to pick up a copy of the book and read it with me. But you can also just read through my summaries and commentary, and respond to my presentation of the topic du jour.
Over the next few weeks, I’m going to read and discuss Chapters 5-9 of Yoga for a World Out of Balance. Each chapter deals with one of the five “yamas” of Ashtanga Yoga. Yama, sometimes translated as “external restraint,” is the first limb or step in the eightfold path of Ashtanga Yoga.
The five guidelines of yama are as follows:
- Ahimsa (non-harming)
- Satya (honesty)
- Asteya (not stealing)
- Brahmacharya (sexual discipline)
- Aparigraha (non-acquisitiveness)
These ethical principles constitute an important cornerstone of Ashtanga Yoga, and demand that we live with an awareness of our impact on others and the world around us. Most yoga practitioners, myself included, are probably more inclined to do yoga for selfish or ego-centric reasons — e.g. I want to feel better, I want to look better, etc. What this book provides is an eye-opening discussion of how we can develop a more well-rounded yoga practice, one that goes beyond asana and manifests yoga in all aspects of our life, not just the physical postures we do on a mat.
This Friday, Feb. 8th, I’ll kick things off with a discussion of Chapter 5: Ahimsa Non-violence. In the course of my discussion, I will broach several issues that inevitably confront the modern-day yoga practitioner — e.g., Should I be a vegetarian? Should I abstain from consumer culture? Should I be doing more to benefit society? I doubt my discussion will be able to provide any definitive answers, but hopefully it will bring some of the questions into sharper focus. At the very least, I’d like to highlight the possibility that our yoga practice can challenge us in how we live our lives, not just how strong or flexible we can be.
- Beyond Asana in 2013 (yogaisforlovers.wordpress.com)