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Ashtanga Yoga - The Intermediate Series: Mythology, Anatomy and Practice
by Gregor Maehle
Reviewed by Donna Amrita Davidge, ATH Co-Editor of Yoga


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Having studied Ashtanga since 1999, this book, Ashtanga Yoga - The Intermediate Series: Mythology, Anatomy and Practice by Gregor Maehle, immediately drew me in. Just viewing a few pages of it online I knew his information about yoga poses and specific anatomical tips would be invaluable. In this, his second book, he explains the "Mythology, Anatomy and Practice" as the title states. Maehle has obviously studied all aspects of yoga in depth and though this is a book on Ashtanga yoga, it is helpful that he has also studied Iyengar.

He has sections on things like shoulder injury, which I found to be extremely useful. Since practicing Ashtanga I have had issues arise with my back and knees that have remedied themselves; but a recurring shoulder injury has of late reversed certain aspects of my  practice. Since Maehle also has a background in Iyengar Yoga, his explanation and diagrams of anatomy are most helpful. Useful as well are the photographs of the actual poses. It is my experience that you do not always get this type of specificity in Ashtanga Yoga - so his books can definitely be an amazing supplement for any Ashtanga practitioner and a valuable book for information on yoga even if you are not able to do the poses in this advanced series. (There are actually six series in Ashtanga Yoga and few get to series two, three or four).

While he warns fairly that anyone reading this book should not attempt the series without a strong foundation in Series One of Ashtanga Yoga, there are many students out there who are rushing their practices either due to their own egos or because they are under the tutelage of a teacher who does not truly understand the intricacies of yoga practice or Ashtanga Yoga, which is an extremely demanding form of yoga physically, and requires intelligence and patience in the progression of the practice.

Series Two is primarily a back bending sequence and so anyone, even if they can do Series One, who has issues with back bending or has not attained a proper understanding and practice with the breath, should not proceed with this series. I read an article a while ago in LA Yoga magazine that spoke about a young woman who rushed through Series One, easily attaining the postures. However, she did not heed the advice of an experienced teacher who told her that she was rushing her practice. She went to another studio that did not monitor her, went on to Series Two, and woke up one night to excruciating pain down her arm. Despite medical attention and time, she has not been able to return to the simplest of backbends without inflicting pain on herself. The paradox of yoga is that people who are inherently flexible needs to strengthen muscles and visa versa. Being someone who is not flexible by nature, I can vouch for the fact that yoga is a lifelong practice and study and that books like Maehle’s can help with that learning process.

Just because Ashtanga Yoga is strong does not mean it should be fast.

This book does not encourage the reader to rush the practice, and again I would only recommend it to someone who has a firm foundation in Series One. I do recommend Ashtanga Yoga, The Intermediate Series if you intend to use it for practice and to those already doing Series Two who would like to more fully understand the poses rather than just simply perform them. For people immersed in the world of Ashtanga Yoga it is an amazing book, and for others studying other advanced types of practice the explanations can be most useful.

Maehle also talks about Sanskrit, the language of yoga, and the Mythology around the names of the poses or asanas, which many people are interested in, in the ever growing family of yoga practitioners in the United States today.

As an Ashtanga practitioner myself I am not sure if my own injury is from overuse, an old injury that occurred prior to the practice (i.e. being hit by a cab on my bike in NYC some years ago), or, as one article I saw recently said, because Ashtanga does chathuranga in a way that uses the triceps more than the biceps and in some can lead to shoulder injury even if properly aligned. The truth is that we are individuals, and yoga was originally taught individually. Maehle gives an extensively useful tool to make sure your practice is as well informed as possible. He definitely wants you to practice with ahimsa, non-injury (or nonviolence) to the self, and shares fully his information to help you have as complete a practice as possible. With so much information out there on yoga it can be confusing as to who really knows their stuff. Maehle obviously does.

Reviewed by Donna Amrita Davidge www.sewallhouse.com Island Falls Maine
Sewall House Yoga Retreat (and also NYC).
info@sewallhouse.com 888-235-2395
Offering retreats in Maine year round and teacher trainings 200 Hr Level.

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About the Author

A student of history, philosophy and comparative religion, Gregor Maehle undertook yearly trips to India from 1984 to study yoga, meditation and philosophy with various masters. Meanwhile he gained anatomical understanding through completing the requirements for a German health practitioner (Heilpraktiker) licence. Since 1990 Ashtanga Yoga has been his main form of yoga practice. His passion is the study of Sanskrit.

The author is co-founder and director of 8limbs Ashtanga Yoga in Perth, Australia.




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