Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Straight Forward Guide

YOGA is Yoga is Yogacharini Florence Thomas’ first book – a simple and straightforward guide on how yoga asanas or postures can help alleviate common ailments and conditions.

Thomas, who has been practising and teaching yoga for more than three decades, was a columnist for a local daily for several years. She also occasionally contributes articles to various magazines and publications.

However, it was the encouragement of her students and family that made her think about writing a book.

"I have been teaching yoga for about 30 years and many of my students are now based overseas. They urged me to write a book which they could carry with them, and refer to should they forget certain postures which they had learnt," Thomas explains.

There are about 120 different postures in the self-published Yoga is Yoga: from postures to strengthen the abdomen, chest and lungs, to those that can lessen the pain in arthritic fingers; postures that help with asthma, and bladder and urinary problems, and even those that can ease sexual tension and frustration!

Digestion problems? Try the complete bow posture illustrated on page 50. Feeling hot? Check out the "cooling breaths" Thomas highlights (p48). Suffering from headaches? The "arms beyond the head" posture might be just what you are looking for (p84).

The basis of yoga, she explains, is breathing or pranayarna. "We all breathe, of course. But most of us do not know how to breathe properly ... we take shallow breaths. In yoga, breath training helps you breathe rhythmically from your diaphragm. This will help those doing the asanas (postures).

"Just by breathing properly, you can alleviate problems like migraines or jetlag," she says.

Thomas also includes several breathing exercises in Yoga is Yoga, namely the Tidal Breath (for asthma), lobular (breath control), the crocodile posture (breath training), the knee-raise position (proper breathing technique), and the fish posture (breathing difficulties).

However, given that breathing is fundamental in yoga, she could have perhaps focussed more on pranayama.

The book does not dive right into the different asanas. Instead, the author begins with a brief explanation on yoga, followed by another chapter on nutrition and diet control, from a yoga point of view, of course.

A vegetarian herself, Thomas writes: "Nutrition and diet to a yogi is the eating of small quantities of food that require a minimum expenditure of energy for digestion. This will give the body a feeling of lightness and well-being, revitalising the whole system and simultaneously providing proper nourishment and maximum life force."

She goes on to explain that "natural" food (which can be eaten in its original state) is best, while food that has been refined, canned, preserved, aged, smoked and fumigated should be avoided.

But readers should not be alarmed and think that they have to alter their diet immediately. "These ideas should be taken as a guiding principle as a sudden change in eating habits or (switch to) vegetarianism may be too radical," she writes.

Thomas also cautions that executing more complex yoga postures without instruction may be harmful for novices. As such, she has only included basic and simple postures in Yoga is Yoga.

"The postures in this book are very simple ... most people can do them +easily. However if you are not well, consult a doctor or a yoga instructor first."

Each asana is illustrated with images of models (all of them yoga practitioners, including her son, who also teaches) performing each pose.

There are also clear instructions on how to execute each pose, as well as explanations about each posture and how it improves or alleviates a particular condition.

Yoga is Yoga is a functional guide on basic but useful asanas. The explanations are lucid and therefore easy for novices to understand. However, as technique is very important in yoga, it may be advisable for those whose only encounter with exercise is a walk to their bed to consult a reputable teacher first. – By S. Indramalar

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