Max Strom is a powerful yoga teacher and after taking just a couple of workshops with him, my own teaching style was instantly enhanced. He has the profound ability to simultaneously teach a multi-level class that challenges and nurtures every student in the room, and everyone leaves feeling uplifted. Max’s Ted talks have gained huge traction on YouTube particularly his lecture titled “There’s No App for Happiness”. One of the best Max Strom experiences now takes place within the covers of his book A Life Worth Breathing: A Yoga Master’s Handbook of Strength, Grace and Healing. It lives up to his promise, with nuggets of transformational wisdom on every page.
The weltanschauung of Max’s yoga practice is breath-centered, body-centered, spirit-centered, and – perhaps most importantly – God-centered. Except he takes an approach that is rarely seen, providing a truly multi-cultural and non-exclusive approach to the Oneness of the Universe:
“the reason for yoga’s non-dogmatic approach to healing and spirituality is that the first purveyors of yoga who came to America wanted to make it more accessible for Westerners, so they excluded much of the traditional spiritual components. What is fascinating is that even though their intention was probably self-serving, the unintended consequence was that students were led by the practice- without dogma- to a more pure spiritual experience. This is because yoga takes one’s spiritual life and vitality into one’s body, healing it while removing stress and pain. After a time, the drugs one may have depended on to battle depression, sleeplessness, and anxiety are thrown into the wastebasket. It seems evident that the exclusion of dogma is essential for a broad outreach into humanity and that is what yoga in the West has inadvertently done” (p4-5).
His analysis of the secular context of yoga is useful to the Western practitioner, and he presents a very clear case for creating a strong yogic foundation in the breath, the body and the mind. The benefits of yoga and meditation are often reinforced to good effect, particularly the fact that a strong aligned practice will lift depression and anxiety as we naturally heal our wounds (‘samskara’ in Sanskrit).
Later on, Max reintroduces religious ideas with more clarity than I’ve ever seen in a yoga book. As a Jewish practitioner it was fascinating to see his knowledge of Biblical tradition, and he takes the word bracha, the Hebrew ‘blessing’, and shows how derivations of the word also appear in Arabic, Aramaic, Sufi and Christian texts. Fascinating.
A Life Worth Breathing is essentially a very user-friendly workbook of the highest order. In the days following my first reading of the book I found my yoga practice shifting much more consciously back to the breath, and raising awareness of gratitude for each of those breaths.
Much of today’s religious conflict would be removed if the zealots of backgrounds heeded Max’s teachings:
“Seek God within. Cloth him/her however you like. Clothe him/her whatever name suits you. But seek. To the sincere seeker, God answers to all names.” (p 188).
To the spiritual seeker, A Life Worth Breathing is A Book Worth Reading.