REVIEW OF NEW BOOKS

A Life Worth Breathing by Max Strom
Book review by Marcus J Freed

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:

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Myths of the Asanas – the Stories at the heart of the Yoga Tradition – NEW!
by Alanna Kaivalya & Arjuna van der Kooij

One of the ongoing questions for Jewish yoga practitioners, and particularly those teaching within some kind of religious setting, is how to feature the Hindu aspects of yoga? However we tell the yoga story with regards to its development pre-dating formal Hindu practice, there is still a vast amount of Hindu storytelling within the very names of the yoga postures. We need look no further than Marichiasana (seated twist) and Hanumanasana (splits) than to see the names of Hindu gods. So, what can we do about it?

One possibility is to embrace it.

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 The Key Muscles of Yoga by Ray Long – NEW!

Recent years have seen an explosion of yoga teacher training programs and there are more qualified teachers and advanced practitioners than ever before in history. As a result we have more resources available including Ray Long’s beautiful book series which begins with The Key Muscles of Yoga, subtitled ‘Your Guide to Functional Anatomy in yoga’.

Although it is hard to imagine that any single book will include all of the anatomical information that would be needed for a yoga teacher or serious practitioner, Long’s book goes a long way to informing us about the specific muscles that are used in any one asana, along with beautiful illustrations. He explains: “Human anatomy and physiology is a vast subject, as is the art of Hatha Yoga.

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Health, Healing and Beyond – Yoga and the Living Tradition of Krishnamacharya - NEW!
by R.H. Cravens & T.K.V. Desikachar  

Health, Healing and Beyond – Yoga and the Living Tradition of T. Krishnamacharya is one of the most enjoyable yoga books I’ve read in years. Krishnamacharya is the best-kept secret in the history of yoga, because he has directly influenced virtually every single yoga class that is almost available in the Western world. Very little of the yoga-going public know his name and the power of teachings.

Sri Krishnamacharya is also an important figure for members of the Jewish Yoga Network as he presented yoga in a light that is harmonious with all religious practices, but more about that later.

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The Subtle Body by Stephanie Symons

If you feel the yoga came to America in the 1960s with the summer of love, then think again. Our story begins with the arrival of Swami Vivekenanda, a little known yogi who is possibly the first recorded teacher of asana in America.

Symon’s compelling book begins with the first Indian guru’s USA arrival in the 1870s, at the height of a conservative era when America was cautious about Indian mysticism. We learn how the Swami was initially supported by wealthy women from the upper class elite and soon decided it was time to set up shop in the heart of New York City. He rented a small apartment on the lower east side, began teaching classes, and America’s first yoga studio was born.

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Yoga – The Greater Tradition by David Frawley

There are many introductory books to yoga that are available on the market, but David Frawley’s new book stands out. Yoga – The Greater Tradition is a deceptively slim volume. The author has packed in an amazing resource of information, re-translating and re-imagining many traditional concepts at the foundation of yogic philosophy.
After many years of reading and studying works such as the Yoga Sutras, I thought I had seen all of the available translations.  I was wrong. Frawley begins by commenting on the overall idea of yoga;

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Book Review: Seven Sparks – Tools for Jewish Wellness by Beth Schafer; Illustrated by Joanne Fink

Seven Sparks is one of the newest books to enter the field of Jewish well being and it does so in an easily-digestible format. The author, a co-founder of the wellness organisation Positive Jewish living, organises her treaty into seven sections that are all linked to one of the ten commandments.

Shabbat/Sabbath is understood through the lens of Stillness, while the idea of having one God is connected to the concept of Love. The notion of Balance becomes a way to explore not taking God’s name in vain or swearing falsely, while Beneficence becomes a path for exploring the edicts to refrain from murder or adultery.

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Jewish Meditation by Aryeh Kaplan

This book is one of the ground-breaking works by this Orthodox rabbi who
was the earliest of modern Jewish teachers to reveal to the general public
aspects of traditional Jewish meditation practices and related mystical
teachings that had long been kept concealed within the province of secretive
Kabalistic learning circles. Rabbi Kaplan had earlier written Meditation
and the Bible and Meditation and Kabbalah. In his introduction to Jewish
Meditation, he admits that the earlier works were not accessible for practical
application for those not already familiar with basic theory and practice.
Thus he wrote Jewish Meditation, A Practical Guide

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Everything is God by Jay Michaelson

Jay’s book seems to me not so much a “textbook” of “non-dualism,” as his own “meditation” on the interplay of his personal spiritual experience with Jewish learning. In so doing, he speaks for thousands of people – including me. He’s not the first Jewish thinker to grapple with this. But his might be the broadest exploration to date. Interestingly, Jay also seems to be in that tradition of American writers – Emerson, Aldous Huxley, the “Beats” (Kerouac; Ginsberg; Watts; etc.) – who explored Buddhist and “Indian” thought with the materials available to them… Click here to read more…

 



Yoga Shalom
by Lisa Levine with Carol Krucoff

Yoga Shalom is a charming book recently released by the URJ Press. Introduced as ‘a spiritual and physical journey, guided by a sequence of traditional Hebrew morning prayers’, it completely delivers on promise. Lisa Levine has produced a superb resource.

The brainchild of Cantor Lisa Levine, Yoga Shalom is the only book of its kind to give a comprehensive overview of the traditional Sabbath service with a selection of yoga postures and gentle teachings to inspire practitioners. Click here to read more…

 


Fire of Love: for students of life, for teachers of yoga by Aadhil Palkhivala
Aadhil Palhkivala’s treatise on yoga, Fire of Love, is a comprehensive resource that is helpful for both teaching and practicing yoga. It begins with a description of the accident that he underwent and charts his subsequent path to healing. The key to wellness is yoga and he takes the reader on a powerful journey through the course of the book.
What I found particularly meaningful was Aadhil’s continual exploration of the mind-body connection through his yoga practice, and the idea that yoga brings healing and balance to the individual practitioner when they take self-responsibility. Aadhil’s approach to yoga is far more sensitive than many contemporary systems. Click here to read more…

 


Letter of Light by Aaron L Raskin
Science teaches that everything is made up of molecules, which are made up of atoms, which are made up of protons, neutrons, and electrons, which are themselves made up of “sub-atomic” waves and particles — quarks, leptons, bosons, and so on. It’s breathtakingly comprehensive and automatic. Utterly mechanical. Utterly impersonal. The Besht states instead that the subtlest building blocks of creation are the sounds of the Hebrew aleph-bet ever being spoken by G-d. Rather than impersonal forces, waves, or particles, they’re miraculous revelations of Divine… Click here to read more…

 

 


By Divine Design
“Oifn Pripitchek,” a popular Yiddish song, says of the Hebrew aleph-bet: “You’ll find strength in the letters…”
It’s as if to say they’re more than central to Jewish culture; they’re part of the Jewish soul itself.“By Divine Design” is a follow-up to an earlier book on the Hebrew alphabet, “Letters of Light,” by HaBaD-based Rabbi Aaron L. Raskin.
Click here to read more…