Book Review: Maran Illustrated Yoga

I’ll be honest, when an email from Brooke Maran hit my mailbox last Thursday to tell me about “our new Yoga book that we have made available online,” I was quite sure that it was SPAM but I quickly realized that the link really did go to an online book and that I had been asked to review it.  All of this was quite a surprise to me, I’ve never been asked to review anything before.  So, I wrote back asking a few questions about the book.  Imagine my surprise when Robert Maran, the president of maranGraphics replied to my questions.  I just want to highlight two things he wrote me:

Our current plan is to have this version of book freely available for anyone that wants to view it online.  We see this as an excellent opportunity to expose our books to the widest possible audience.

. . . .

If a reader enjoys our online book our hope is that they may also enjoy our physical book.  If we can benefit those who cannot afford a physical book then that is a bonus.

Robert Maran,

Words fail me at this point.  Bravo maranGraphics, bravo!

The Review
Maran Illustrated Yoga

Let me begin by saying that this is a great book!  Amazon currently lists it at $16.49 and that seems a steal for such a great reference!  Like many books on Yoga, Illustrated Yoga focuses heavily on asanas (postures/poses) devoting twelve of its fifteen chapters to them.  Each pose is rated on a scale of 1 to 5—5 being the highest—for difficulty and a series of pictures and detailed instructions show how to come into and out of each pose.  Every pose also has tips and modifications associated with it, these help address common problems and also provide more challenging variations for those already comfortable with these basic postures.  The chapters on poses cover warm-up poses, seated poses, seated forward bends, chair poses, standing poses, standing balance poses, standing forward bends, table poses, back bends, inversions, reclined poses, and relaxation and restorative poses.  Even if the book contained only those twelve chapters, I would recommend that you add it to your home Yoga Library.  It is not, however, just twelve chapters on asanas.

The first chapter gives a solid overview of what Yoga is without dwelling heavily on the philosophy behind it.  It reviews the benefits of Yoga for all ages, finding a Yoga class, creating a good practice environment at home and—my favorite—tips for a great yoga practice.  I always try to remember that meditation and relaxation should occur throughout ones practice and not just at set times.  The tips section echoes that somewhat with this statement:  Consider each pose as a journey that consists of three parts:  coming into the pose, holding the pose and coming out of the pose.

The second chapter briefly covers pranayama under the heading Yoga and Breathing.  Although this chapter uses the same detailed directions as the pose chapters do, it only covers abdominal breathing and three part breath.  I would have loved to see more forms of pranayama covered.  The final chapter covers a number of short sequences, such as Surya Namaskara, and a range of full practice sequences as well as giving good information on designing your own practice sequence.  I have read many Yoga books and most of them have some form of practice sequence but Illustrated Yoga does it right.  As I mentioned, the last chapter has seven full practice sequences and that includes one based solely on chair poses, that is something I’ve never seen and shows just how concerned maranGraphics is about making Yoga accessible to everyone.

Although I think highly of this book, there are a few things I would have done a little diferently had I the chance:  I would have liked to see a wider variety in the models.  Ideally I would have liked to see a young male, older male and older female model alongside Ms. Clarke.  The first chapter does a good job of this and I would have loved to see that carried throughout the book.  As I mentioned earlier, more information on pranayama would have been beneficial and also more than just the brief mention of meditation.  These criticisms are, however, quite minor and I do not hesitate in the least when I say that this is a book well worth reading.

Finally, this is not a book to sit down and read then put on your shelf.  This is book is one to have by your side as you practice, the pages dog-eared and worn from use.  Take the time to read through the book online and then skip that next fast food lunch and buy yourself a copy!