Book Review:
The Little Red Book of Yoga Wisdom

The Little Red Book of Yoga Wisdom Book Cover The Little Red Book of Yoga Wisdom
Kelsie Besaw
Skyhorse Publishing
2 January 2014
Publisher provided review copy

“Yoga has many interpretations, and it has many teachers. From ancient yogis such as Buddha to more modern experts such as B. K. S. Iyengar, there is much wisdom to be gleaned from these pages, and there is much that can be discarded. As many say in the yoga world, if something does not work for you, then it is not true for you. There have been countless yogis and yoga experts throughout history, delving into the deepest meanings of yoga as well as scratching its most shallow surface. As readers will discover from this inspirational collection of yoga wisdom, there is no one way to do yoga, see yoga, or feel yoga.”

I’ll be honest, I wanted to love this book.  It’s the first book I’ve been asked to review in a very long time and on the first page of the first chapter it has a quote from Swami Kripalu, my Guru’s Guru, “To perform every action artfully is yoga.”  This quote was quickly followed by quotes from Patañjali and from the Bhagavad Gita.  I found the popular “Yoga as Martial Art” quote but allowed that others may indeed see Yoga this way.  Then I began to see some quotes attributed to Patañjali repeating but were obviously just different translations.  I wondered if this was an indication that there wasn’t as much material here as I had hoped.  At the same time, I knew that different translations of the Yoga Sutras often have great value by giving different perspectives on the same passages; so, I decided to ignore the repeats for the purpose of the this review.

The second chapter “Styles of Yoga” says, “There are many different yoga practices.  This list should help you choose which one is best for you.”  The list is incomplete and gives only a very terse description which is not always accurate:  “Anusara:  This style focuses on heart-opening poses such as backbends.”

There are over 250 poses that compile the syllabii of Anusara yoga asanas. This syllabus encompasses all of the poses are commonly practiced in hatha yoga classes today, covering all of the major classifications of poses: standing poses, backbends, forward bends, twists, hand balancing, inversions, and restoratives.

I am not an Anusara yogi but a simple search on Google turned up the above information.  Kelsie Besaw’s experience with Anusara Yoga may have been backbends and heart opening but to say that is the crux of Anusara is inaccurate.

Chapter 6, Yoga Poses, is one long table with columns of English names and corresponding Sanskrit names of postures along with the physical benefits of the posture.  There are no pictures of the postures, just words.  Because different traditions of Yoga use different names for the same posture—do an image search for ardha chandrasana as an example—simply listing names cannot guarantee that I, the reader, will know which posture is meant.

Still, I was willing to give this book at least 3 stars.  It contains a number of great quotes and that, at least, is worth recommending.  Then I found this quote:

The five points of yama, together with the five points of niyama, remind us of the Ten Commandments of the Christian and Jewish faiths, as well as of the ten virtues of Buddhism.  In fact, there is no religion without these moral or ethical codes.  All spiritual life should be based on these things.  They are the foundation stones without which we can never build anything lasting.

The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali

The Little Red Book of Yoga Wisdom, pg 119

I can guarantee that this quote is not in Patañjali’s Yoga Sutras but, rather, is in a commentary about the Yoga Sutras.  Point of fact, this quote comes from Swami Satchidanada’s book,The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali and is Swami Satchidanada’s commentary and not part of the Yoga Sutras Patañjali wrote.  Again, a simple search using Google quickly reveals the true source of the quote.

The Little Red Book of Yoga Wisdom is, mainly, a book of quotes about Yoga.  Unfortunately, the sources listed for the quotes are questionable as shown above.  All of these things taken together leaves me no room to recommend this book.  I did give it two stars rather than one because, while incomplete and inaccurately sourced, this book does provide a place where one can start to research Yoga.

Jai Bhagwan