Although young people may find this hard to believe, but people in America did not always know about Eastern philosophies and practices. Yoga has been known in the West for many years, but only to a select few.
It wasn’t until The Beatles took up meditation and flew to India to study under the Mararesh Mahesh Yogi that people in general started waking up.
When I bought the paperback edition of this book, yoga was still a weirdo subject, and I didn’t talk about it with my friends. But I enjoy reading about strange subjects, and I’d finished reading the ESP/Occult books in my small town public library, and worked my way down to the books on non-Christian religions.
The author opens with his personal story. As a boy he was weak and sickly, catching many diseases. He apparently survived only because his father was a doctor. At age 15 he learned about Hatha Yoga and studied under a master.
Within a few months he developed his body into one strong, flexible and muscular. He no longer suffered from disease. He left India and founded a famous yoga school in Switzerland. This book is part of his efforts to bring the teachings of yoga to the West.
He introduces Hatha yoga as a discipline to create health by bringing greater consciousness to our bodies.
The ancient yogis did not intend it to be practiced for its own sake. They just knew that sick and weak people could not focus their minds on higher spiritual disciplines, so it was first necessary to bring them good health. Remember that people in India would have suffered from food shortages, poor housing and infectious diseases even to a greater extent than they do now. For one thing, smallpox was not wiped out until about 1978, so countless people died of it.
However, those of us who are not seeking a higher spiritual consciousness can also use Hatha yoga to gain greater health, and this book is a terrific introduction. It’s what I used for years, as a little kid doing the Plough and Headstand in my bedroom.
The chapter “Every Disease Has Mental Causes” was far ahead of its time, and yet scientific advances have just confirmed its thesis that the body is weakened by negative thinking.
Women no longer wear tight girdles, but all of us need the chapters reminding us to breath deeply for our best health.
He described the asanas (physical postures) and pranayama (breathing exercises) in a way easier enough for twelve year old to follow. I know, because I was twelve when I first read them.
And there’re many photographs to illustrate how the positions look when done correctly.
At the end, he gives a 21 week schedule to follow.
One chapter is devoted to slow motion exercises done in front of a mirror to help you visualize your growing muscles. While going through the motions, you tense your muscles as hard as you can.
Although I never practiced this very much, some fitness gurus swear by it, such as John E. Peterson.
In summary, this book is still a terrific introduction to yoga. It’s probably better to attend a class taught by a good teacher, but if you have no classes in your area or no time or money for them, you can’t go wrong with Yoga and Health.