Buddhist Books Blog

Readings and writings on Buddhism, yoga, and contemplative science

Living Yoga by Georg Feuerstein (ed)

Living Yoga: A Comprehensive Guide for Daily Life edited by Georg Feuerstein and Stephen Bodian with the staff of Yoga Journal.  Jeremy P. Tarcher/Putnam 1993.  290 pages.

I confess I’m not sure why I bought this book.  It’s not like I didn’t check out the table of contents on Amazon.  So, before I bought it I knew it consisted of a selection of journal articles previously published in Yoga Journal.  And I know such books, even with a good editor–Georg Feuerstein, in this case–are rarely first-rate.  Plus, being a not overly enthused subscriber to Yoga Journal, I should have known what I was getting into.  Well, now you can benefit from my experience and know what you’ll be getting into if you buy this book.

First, concerning Yoga Journal, the source for every article.  I realize there’s a market for everything.  In other words, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.  So no doubt there are hundreds of thousands of people who subscribe to YJ and have a spiritual orgasm every time they read it.  I am not one of them.  I find YJ  hyper flashy, heavily commercial, its articles often saccharine to the point of inducing nausea.  Sometimes I wonder if I read it for the models.  That said, I am sure that with discrimination and a willingness to wade through hundreds of back issues you could find some worthy articles and that, no doubt, is what Feuerstein and Co. were trying to do. 

They were successful on some counts.  The problem is there aren’t enough high quality pieces to make a solid book.  Plus, their rather heterogeneous subjects give the book a grab bag feeling.  Consider this diversity of topics:

  • Jacob Needleman on money
  • An earth-based poem by Gary Snyder
  • Thoughts on celebration by Carolyn Shaffer
  • Reflections on mother’s love by Ken Keyes
  • Gretchen Newmark on how to overcome eating disorders
  • A history of transpersonal psychology
  • Six illusions (or random observations) about the body by Larry Dossey

These kinds of very peripheral topics intersperse some fine and useful articles on:

  • sequencing postures
  • how to master the lotus
  • an essay by Ken Wilber on what meditation can’t do for you
  • methods of relaxation, etc

I think you can see what I mean.  There are jewels among the debris, but the overall effect is frustrating, out of focus, and a sense you are constantly starting over on page one.  Plus, even Georg Feuerstein’s introductory essays became kind of annoying after a while.

These are the pieces that stood out to me as particularly interesting (I’m sure you’ll have your own list of favorites).  All are examples of good thinking and good writing:

  • Developing Your Own Yoga Practice by Hart Lazer
  • A Nonviolent Approach to Extending Your Limits by Ken Dychtwald
  • Working With the Breath by Richard Miller
  • Asana: Basic Movement Toward Health by Judith Lasater
  • How to Grow A Lotus by Donna Farhi (the model could be my mother as a young woman!)
  • The Buddhist Yoga of Mindfulness by Stephan Bodian
  • The Power and Limits of Meditation by Ken Wilber
  • Beyond Ego by Bryan Wittine
  • What Makes Spiritual Teachers Go Astray by Diana Leafe Christian
  • Tantric Celibacy and the Mystery of Eros by Stuart Sovatsky
  • Life As Service: An Interview with Ram Das by Stephan Bodian
  • Be Who You Are: An Interview with Jean Klein by Stpehan Bodian (even though I find this kind of perspective incredibly frustrating–see Daniel Ingram on this in my review of his book)
  • Who Am I? by Ramana Maharshi
  • The Timeless Wisdom of Nonduality: Sayings of Nisargadatta

Now I have to gripe about the second or third-rate production value of the book.  The text, including the cover and internal photos, all look like someone took the original volume and popped off a copy down at their local Kinkos.  Actually, no–that’s an insult to Kinkos.  Kinkos would do a much better reproduction job than this.  The pictures are grainy, like something off a Xerox machine from the ’70s.  (Yeah, I remember those!)  The cover, as you can see, is denuded of life and color.  Shame on Jeremy P. Tarcher/Putnam for turning out something old man Gutenberg would have been embarrassed by!

My Amazon Rating: 2 stars

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