The Heart of Yoga T.K.V. Desikachar, along with Light on Yoga by B.K.S. Iyengar, are my two favorite references for yoga. When I am planning classes or contemplating teachings it always seems to provide guidance and clarity.
The first time I read this book, I remember thinking, “Yes! This is what I was trying to get my students to understand!” Many times it was like reading what I knew in my heart, but could not put into words. The Heart of Yoga makes the complex teaching of yoga accessible, ties everything back to the ancient teachings and always gives you something more to consider.
Reading and researching yoga can make your head spin. With 5,000 years of study it can be difficult to scratch the surface. Desikachar makes the very complex teachings of yoga accessible. For example, right at the start of the book, he provides the following gem.
“Books or yoga classes often give the impression that there are prerequisites for the study of yoga…We begin where we are and how we are, and whatever happens, happens.” (p. 7)
As students and teachers it’s okay if we don’t know everything and in fact maybe it’s better. That way our experience is not muddled and we can allow it to unfold. If we are present for the teachings we will learn what it is we need to know.
Desikachar is authentic. The experience he shares from his teachers, integrating sanskrit, and presenting the sutras (in discussion and as a text) creates credibility. I love the dissection of sanskrit and understanding that comes with it. The photos of his teacher – Krishnamacharya, students, and family give you an peek in to his life and journey which also adds to the credibility of his word.
The book is eloquent. On a personal note, I have a difficult time writing in or highlighting books. But, his writing really speaks to, many times as poetry. My copy is riddled with highlighted passages. Combining accessibility and eloquences make the experience as the reader more complete.
“The quality of the breath is therefore the clearest indication of the quality of our asana practice.” (p.23)
Whenever I come back to this book, it usually starts because I am working through a concept or challenge. I’m left with a better understanding, but always something more to think about. There are some sections I’ve read and re-read a number of times and each time I learn something new. This makes the book a wonderful resource when planning classes.
This book is a cherished part of my library. I regularly revisit it. My favorite books are the ones that I read and re-read. The Heart of Yoga definitely qualifies.