At first approach, this book to its reader can be somewhat overwhelming and intimidating. However, the beauty of this book or guide is that it can be approached in so many different ways. This is only because of the way the book is constructed.
The book starts with a wonderful and inspiring preface from Iyengar himself. It tells us of his joy and happiness of the books success, along with the struggles he faced when first publishing it. Not once does Iyengar take credit for any of its successes (even though it has sold millions of copies across the globe), instead offers his gratitude to those who helped him along the way and shows humility to his own offerings and teachings outlined in the book. From this, the reader will start to understand what a great yogi Iyengar is and how his continued love and devotion to his practice of yoga has inspired people the world over.
The introduction to the book consists of Iyengars explanation of yoga, the stages of yoga and also the eight limbs of yoga.
In the introduction Iyengar highlights the knowledge of yoga and quotes from classic works such as ‘Pantanjalis yoga sutra’ and the ‘Bhagavad Gita’
I would like to highlight a quote from Iyenagr within the introduction.’ As a well cut diamond has many facets, each reflecting a different colour of light, so does the word yoga, each facet reflecting a different shade of meaning and revealing different aspects of the entire range of human endeavour to win inner space and happiness’.
As yoga is still so misrepresented and misunderstood by other so called authorities, I cannot think of a more perfect metaphor for the reader.
The stages of yoga and eight limbs are written in a very traditional and perhaps somewhat rigid manner. It may be so to do with when the book was first constructed, but there are many authoritarian books on hatha yoga outlining the same text, but with a bit more of a casual element to them. Iyengar it seems, does not offer much questioning of these subjects, but rather shows them as they are. I think this very well shows why this book has become such a blueprint for the practice of hatha yoga and doesn’t run off on a whim or a hunch. The foundation is very solid throughout.
Part 2 of the book consists of; Asana, Pranayama, Bandha and kriya. From this point on the book becomes a manual into the practice of physical yoga, breaking down each pose into a formulated systematic guide along with photo illustrations. Up until Light on yoga was first published, this type of manual was the first of its kind, people where only taught yoga directly from gurus. Iyengar cornered the market somewhat by introducing this step by step guide to reach a wider audience. He begins with precautions of asana practice, which is not missing in most classes and books published today. Each asana is the shown by breakdown of there names in Sanskrit and meaning, the techniques and effects – all shown with a photo illustration of Iyengar himself and not some beautiful model we tend to see in our western publications today; the photos of Iyengar are plain and were taken throughout many different stages of his practice and not in a highly lit studio with a team of people ensuring the photo looks perfect. This im assuming would be more to do with the point of the book rather than the time the photos were taken.
I don’t know if at the time, if Asanas had English names, but I do respect Iyengars choice in not using them as so many yoga guides today heavily rely on the English word for each asana which is slowly diluting the true Sanskrit words.
What makes his guide so different and original is that any of the Asanas can be approached by any level of student. It can also be used by teachers or students as quick reference guide and he even lists exercises to do as medical ailments, such as arthritis, backache and fatigue. The ending part of this section concludes with asana courses that you can practice as a student. At the time of books publication there where no yoga DVD’s or weekly classes one could attend after work, so the information set out in the book was its originality and the information in the pages could be used to progress ones own practice. This whole section of the book is a blueprint, which is why that this book has become such useful practical resource for yoga students and teachers. Dare I say that light on yoga is just as important and groundbreaking to yogis as to what Greys Anatomy is to students of modern medicine? The book end with an invaluable glossary which gives the reader a great reference point for anything they are unsure of.
As a yoga student, I see this book as a blessing and an essential resource. Personally I see it as manual and an encyclopedia that I can refer to for answers and inspiration.
In such a western dominated world of yoga it is important for us all to honour such a man as Iyengar. Light of yoga is a piece of work that can only be derived from generations of yogic knowledge passed on through generations of gurus. This book keeps alive the importance of honouring a higher consciousness and offers asana practice as a path to achieve that union of body and spirit. It also confirms to its reader that asana practice can be for everybody regardless of level. People describe this book as the bible of hatha yoga merely because the very fact that everything you need to know about that practice of asana is here.
Its mere existence and place in the world of yoga will continue to inspire students forever and safeguard correct alignment of asana in an ever evolving practice of yoga postures.