Yoga Stuff

Book Review: Asanas – 608 Yoga Poses by Dharma Mittra

Anyone who has practiced yoga for some time has probably come across this book at some point in his/her travels. The story behind the book goes something like this. Dharma Mittra, upon finishing his studies with his guru, decided to present him with a gift. So he undertook the massive project of photographing himself doing 908 different asanas and making a giant poster of the images for his guru (before the time of digital cameras and Photoshop, mind you). This he accomplished, and you can in fact buy a nice reproduction of that poster today for something like $30 plus shipping.

This book, Asanas – 608 Yoga Poses, comes out of that same project and is a presentation of roughly two-thirds of the poses from the poster. The book is better in some ways, since the asanas are presented one to a page, with the Sanskrit name for the pose, the common English name, and a black and white photograph of Dharma Mittra demonstrating each one. On the poster, the pictures are quite small, and it’s really difficult to see what he’s doing in some of them.

Although yogis of all levels might enjoy Asanas – 608 Yoga Poses, I think it’s really more useful for experienced yogis, since there is very little by way of basic instruction in the book. It’s essentially a picture book for reference. I like to flip through the pages to get ideas for poses to throw into my own practice, or to use when teaching. Also, this book is great for learning the Sanskrit names of asanas, which is an important way of appreciating and acknowledging the history of this ancient practice that has been passed down to us. Personally, I find that something is lost when we translate Utkatasana as “fierce pose”, “powerful pose”, or (cringe) “lightning bolt pose”.

OVERALL: A-

Dharma Mittra’s book has really become something of a yoga classic. My only complaint (hence the A- and not an A) is that the binding is pretty cheap, and the pages do tend to fall out once the book gets some use.

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