Yoga has been around for 5,000 years—and for a very good reason: It works. In the past decade, yoga has become increasingly popular in the United States and has entered the mainstream of public consciousness. Celebrities like Madonna, Sting, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and Christy Turlington are seriously involved in yoga and praise its benefits highly. Oprah Winfrey devoted an entire hour-long TV show to yoga, in which Rodney Yee, world-renowned and highly recognized yoga teacher, taught yoga to the studio audience; and model, Christy Turlington, herself an avid yogi, discussed her love of yoga and presented her line of yoga clothing called Nuala.
Newspaper and magazine articles on yoga abound. Time magazine devoted its April 16, 2001, cover story to yoga. Health clubs include yoga classes on their schedules and health insurance companies are reimbursing patients for yoga therapy. According to the National Institutes of Health, there are more patient visits to alternative health care practitioners than to traditional western physicians and allied professionals.
It certainly seems as if everyone is talking about yoga these days—or trying it. Time magazine says that fifteen million Americans are doing some form of yoga as part of their fitness regimen (twice as many as five years ago). Yoga Journal recently estimated that one in thirteen Americans had either tried or was thinking of trying yoga.
As a yoga teacher and student, I have observed the broad spectrum of people who are inquiring about yoga and taking classes. Yoga is no longer just for people from the ‘60s generation, who burned incense, chanted, and wore baggy pants. And it is certainly not a fad! Writers, artists, teachers, housewives, stockbrokers, film producers, college students, lawyers, architects, retired folks, carpenters, and plumbers are all doing yoga.
So, what is all the fuss about and what can yoga do for you? Yoga can help you look and feel great, open and strengthen your body, quiet and focus your mind, relieve tension, increase your self-knowledge and awareness, improve your quality of life, and change how you see the world. It has a profound and lasting effect on how you treat yourself and others. Time spent doing yoga is an opportunity to reconnect intimately with yourself on many levels and to give yourself your complete attention. When was the last time you did that? By practicing yoga you can rejuvenate, care for, and nurture yourself at the deepest levels, resulting in greater reservoirs of compassion and tolerance for other people and a positive impact on your relationships. Most importantly, you will develop a better relationship with yourself.
You will experience longer periods of calm and clarity. All those minor, daily annoyances, emotional ups and downs, and responsibilities will be brought into a broader perspective, which allows them to come and go without becoming overly attached to you. You will begin to understand what is most life-affirming, beneficial, lasting, and important to you.
The Everything® Yoga Book is a general introduction that has a style, language, and format that's easy to read and follow. The language of yoga is Sanskrit, an ancient and beautiful language. Sanskrit, with the English translation, will be used throughout the book, when appropriate. Please do not be intimidated by Sanskrit. It is a phonetic language, which sounds just as it is spelled, unlike our crazy English language. Of course, the Sanskrit alphabet is different from ours. But don't worry—I only include the English translation in this book. When you read the Sanskrit name of a pose, say it out loud, just as it is written, and you will be speaking Sanskrit!
The book contains information about what yoga is, its history and philosophy, the different styles of yoga, the health benefits of yoga, what you need to get started, yoga poses to practice, relaxation and meditation practices, yoga for specific needs, as well as yoga resources. The description of poses includes photographs illustrating the postures, as well as any useful modifications to the postures. Before you practice the postures, look at the pictures and read the description of how to do the poses, the ways to practice, and any contraindications. It is my wish that this book will educate and motivate you to include yoga in your daily life.