Saturday, October 23, 2010

Teaching Yoga : Essential Foundations and Techniques - Mark Stephens

Summary:  Teaching Yoga is an essential resource for all yoga teachers and students interested in refining their skills and expanding their knowledge of yoga.  Enhanced with nearly 200 instructional photos and illustrations, this comprehensive book is ideal for use as a core textbook in teacher training programs.  Readers will find practical and detailed information on teaching methods, sequencing principles, the fundamentals of 108 poses (asanas), and techniques for teaching meditation and breathing (pranayama).  Yoga philosophy and history as well as traditional and modern aspects of anatomy are also covered.  Author Mark Stephens, an esteemed yoga teacher and teacher trainer, offers guidance through the process involved in becoming a teacher and sustaining oneself in the profession.  A useful appendix lists associations, institutes, organizations, and professional resources for yoga teachers.  (Summary from back of the book.  Image from http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/.  This book was given free for review.)

My Review:  This has to be the most comprehensive book on yoga I've ever read.  It is definitely more than just your typical 'how-to' yoga book.  It isn't until page 157 that the actual process of teaching yoga is addressed.  The pages preceding this are filled with history, the separate but integral aspects of yoga from mental to physical to ethical standards.

The middle section of the book focuses on the basic teachings, processes, and set up of a yoga class including breathing, sequencing, and meditation.  This section also has pictures to illustrate the positions (asanas) in black and white.  Not being a yoga instructor, some of the terms and vocabulary were definitely above my vocabulary relating to yoga.  That shouldn't stop you from picking up this book though.  There are multiple formats of explanation and a glossary at the back of the book.  Another aspect to the book I really liked was how this mid-section (probably the most helpful for a yoga participant and not someone angling to become a yoga instructor) was organized.  Each of the separate asanas (positions) is its own section.  These sections give the primary risk areas of the body, how to guide students into position safely, and what to look for to ensure proper technique.  Some of these positions are beyond an average students capability at least at first.  I would not call this a beginners book.  One last thing about the mid-section that I loved is the many examples of sequencing and planning a class that Stephens provides.  If you're new to teaching yoga and don't want to get bogged down in the same routine, I would think this would be your favorite section.

The last section proves even more this is an advanced book for serious yoga instructors.  This section contains information about specialized teaching for people with injuries, pregnant students, and even has a section for how to teach yoga to people suffering from depression.  There is an appendix containing yoga teaching resources, yoga organizations, websites, and even institutes and research centers on yoga.  The last aspect I wanted to mention specifically is Appendix C.  It contains a quick list of asanas (positions) with the classical name, the common name (ex. downward dog) and a picture. 

I have been thoroughly impressed, even if it was overwhelming at first, by this all encompassing book on yoga.  If you teach yoga I'd be surprised if you hadn't read this book.  It would be my go-to guide.

Rating: 4.5 stars only because it was a bit daunting to get into.

Sum it up:  The most comprehensive book I've read on teaching yoga.

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