By: Howard Kent
Yoga Made Easy
A Personal Yoga Program that Will Transform Your Daily Life
By Howard Kent
(Quarto Publishing Co., 1994, 160 pages)
Review by Christopher Dow
This review should be simple to write since I have never practiced yoga and know very little about it beyond the basics known to most folks. My impression of the art is that it is most closely akin to the chi kung arts, which I do know a little about--mostly to Wai Dan, or external, chi kung, with many Nei Dan, or internal chi kung, elements mixed in. Notable among those is diaphragmatic breathing that enhances and builds the internal energy of chi. Or perhaps I should call it “prana” when talking about yoga.
As with martial arts literature, there are many, many thousands of instructional volumes on yoga, not to mention additional thousands of videos on Youtube or DVD. Not being a yoga practitioner, I don’t have any examples in my library except this one—Yoga Made Easy—which I have had for many years but have not read until now. I don’t know if it is any better or worse than other yoga manuals, but looking it over, I can see that it is interesting and well produced, and it covers a lot of ground that jibes with chi kung practices.
The book, which deals with Hatha Yoga, opens with an introduction that lays out the ideas behind yoga and yoga’s principles and precepts. These include linking body and mind, achieving balance, and learning control of the body, breath, and mind. It also addresses the issue of whether or not yoga is a religion, arguing that it is not but giving the issue some play.
How to use the book and developing a personal program of yoga occupy the next couple of chapters. Since this book is intended for at-home instruction for those lacking an experienced instructor, a list of cautions and prohibitions is included.
The book, itself, is the program. Each of the subsequent twelve chapter covers one month of instruction, with exercises accumulating over the course of the year—hopefully with the abilities of the student increasing at the same pace. Remember folks, you gotta practice if you want to see results. Beginning with simple stretching and toning exercises during month one, the book takes the novice through a course that becomes more rigorous but never impossibly so. All the exercises and concepts are well explained and accompanied by excellent color photos and drawings, and all the movements look easy to learn, even if they might not be easy to perform with facility in the beginning. But if one is patient and faithfully follows the course laid out by this book for the entire year, he or she should end up in really good shape.
I’m not going to go into each chapter/month of instruction except to say that each contains relevant information about the body, prana, and other aspects as well as instructions for the physical exercises. This allows the user to accumulate and integrate knowledge gradually along with technique and skill. Yoga, the author points out, is as much mental as it is physical, and the discipline is not simply about “exercise.”
Yoga Made Easy would be an excellent introduction for anyone who doesn’t, for one reason or another, have access to a live teacher. In many respects, yoga, like chi kung but unlike Tai Chi, can be learned on one’s own because it is postural-based rather than movement-based. The book is well written and well designed, but as I said earlier, I don’t have an adequate number of yoga books to accurately gauge the quality of this one against others. But it you want to learn the basics of yoga, I have to say that this book will deliver the goods.