The Heart of Yoga: Developing a Personal Practice
The Heart of Yoga: Developing a Personal Practice

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The first yoga text to outline a step-by-step sequence for developing a complete practice according to viniyoga--yoga adapted to the needs of the individual.

A contemporary classic by a world-renowned teacher.

This new edition adds thirty-two poems by Krishnamacharya that capture the essence of his teachings.

Sri Tirumalai Krishnamacharya, who lived to be over 100 years old, was one of the greatest yogis of the modern era. Elements of Krishnamacharya's teaching have become well known around the world through the work of B. K. S. Iyengar, Pattabhi Jois, and Indra Devi, who all studied with Krishnamacharya. Krishnamacharya's son T. K. V. Desikachar lived and studied with his father all his life and now teaches the full spectrum of Krishnamacharya's yoga. Desikachar has based his method on Krishnamacharya's fundamental concept of viniyoga, which maintains that practices must be continually adapted to the individual's changing needs to achieve the maximum therapeutic value.

In The Heart of Yoga Desikachar offers a distillation of his father's system as well as his own practical approach, which he describes as "a program for the spine at every level--physical, mental, and spiritual." This is the first yoga text to outline a step-by-step sequence for developing a complete practice according to the age-old principles of yoga. Desikachar discusses all the elements of yoga--poses and counterposes, conscious breathing, meditation, and philosophy--and shows how the yoga student may develop a practice tailored to his or her current state of health, age, occupation, and lifestyle.

Customer Reviews:

  • More about morals and spirituality than about poses
    I'm afraid I' ll have to sound a rather discordant note amid the hymns of praise of other reviewers concerning the Heart of Yoga.

    Maybe I should have paid more attention to the title of the book and realized that this wasn't, as I had imagined, a self-help manual on how to go deeper into the practice of yoga postures. True, there are several chapters on how to improve asanas, but most of the book treats of yoga as a spiritual discipline, something that is often overlooked today since yoga has become a form of fitness for most Westerners. Therefore you will find lots of spiritual instructions in the book on how to lead a moral life, etc., etc. Hindu concepts of retribution (karma) and ignorance (avidya), among others, are discussed at length. There is a very long chapter, one-third of the book maybe, reproducing the Yoga Sutra of Patanjali (are you really interested, dear reader?)

    Other things you will find in this book is long and abundantly illustrated chapters on the author, his family and his master, several interviews of Desikachar and, as I said, copious texts on Hindu religion. All photographs and drawings are black and white and of rather poor quality.

    The chapters on asanas are certainly useful and interesting, and there are examples of asana sequences which you can practice, but everything you will find in the Heart of Yoga concerning Hatha Yoga and postures is rather short and of a general nature. One feels that the book is not intended for people who want to teach themselves yoga. Rather this seems to be a kind of general introduction for people who practice under a guru. And as I said, the emphasis is on spirituality and right (Hindu) living.

    For those of you who can find them and read French fluently, I highly recommend the books on Ashtanga yoga written by Andre van Lysbeth. They are available on They are invaluable.
    ...more info
  • Wonderful Resource
    This book is truly a complete and comprehensive resource for anyone looking to enter into a teaching program or anyone simply looking to deepen or develop their own personal practice. ...more info
  • Excellent all around yoga resource
    I own a lot of books on yoga and this is one of my favorite introductions. What makes it particularly valuable is that it explains how to construct a practice. This allows the reader to intelligently use other resources and link his or her yoga practice to overaching physical, psychological and spiritual principles.

    I also found this volume to be well balanced. It covered a lot of ground and had a broad scope, but it was not overwhelming in any way. It really did a great job of covering the essentials of yoga philosophy, principles of joining breath with movement, connecting poses and varying poses.

    The book also contains a good introduction to pranayama and presents the basics of the bandhas. The material on the mental and moral application of yoga are also well done, but not over done. I also liked that the book included a pronunciation guide for Sanskrit and 60 pages of a translation of parts of the yoga sutras of Patanjali with insightful commentary.

    If you are looking for a book that explains how to do particular asanas, then this isn't your best choice although it does include a short section on Four General Practice Sequences.

    This book does NOT provide detailed instruction on how to perform particular asanas. For this, you might try 30 Essential Yoga Poses by Judith Lasater, Dancing the Body of Light by Dona Holleman (a must have) or Back Care Basics by Mary Pullig Schatz M.D. (don't let the title full you, it's a great general introduction to yoga, especially for people starting later in life).

    The Heart of Yoga will compliment any of the books above, which are not nearly as strong with respect to how to construct a yoga practice on your own.

    ...more info
  • Great overall book, review by certified yoga instructor
    This is an excellent book that contains a good primer on yoga philosophy, correcting breathing and how to link different asanas together. It is not a comprehensive book on positions, but rather an introduction to important principles. It also explains how to link different positions into a balanced practice. This is very useful for most beginners. It also includes as a bonus the text of Patanjali's Yoga Sutra. At this price, it's a real bargain and quite different from most yoga books you will read....more info
  • very nice overview and depth
    Desikachar does and excellent job of providing an overview of yoga and adds enough depth to come away with some practical techniques. I read this book after having a fair amount of yoga experience and it really solidified my sense of direction. I would also highly recommend it for someone new to yoga because they will get a good sense of the more complete traditional yoga. It provides a context of understanding about the true goal of yoga which is not just a glorified body....more info
  • Best translation of the Yoga Sutras of Pantanjali.
    This is an excellent book. Be advised that this book contains an incredible bonus - the best, and most understandable translation (actually a translation/interpretation) of the Yoga Sutras of Pantanjali that I have ever read. After years of searching for a translation that I could actually use in my personal practice, I am very grateful to have found this one. This alone is well worth the price of the book. Highly recommended....more info
  • the heart of yoga
    very much enjoying it! would reccommend it to any one wanting to know more about yoga....more info
  • great quality, received quickly, junk inside
    This book is exactly what I wanted, great condition, received quickly, but full of informational junk and religious ideologies that make no sense if you really think about it. I definately learned more about yoga and why I don't want to practice it, it is not logical or based on anything solid....more info
  • Excellent
    This book is outstanding in its presentation of yoga. I love it and use it 5 days a week....more info
  • Best book on Yoga you will find
    If you are looking to find out more of what Yoga is really about, not just the poses, which are a very small part of Yoga, then buy and read this book. This book gives you the background of Yoga, how to find a teacher and the basics of creating a practice among other things. The sutras are also included. The writer, TKV Desikachar, is the son of T Krishnamacharya who revitalized Yoga for the world and brought it to all people, women as well, as it was traditionally taught only to men. Krishnamacharya was the teacher of BKS Iyengar and Pattabhi Jois, both who left in their twenties and teach Yoga for young people to all. Krishnamacharya modified Yoga for the individual up to his death at the age of 100 in 1989 and his son, TKV Desikachar, the author, is his only student to learn from him up to his death. Come find out what Yoga is really about and all the tools available to you as a student or teacher!...more info
  • The Heart of Yoga
    If you have any interest in yoga at all you should read this book. It gives a great general overview of all the aspects of yoga in an easy to read and understand format. If your knowledge of yoga extends only to asana practice, this book will help you to grasp the rest, its a great starting point for anyone looking to take their practice further....more info
  • So That's What Yoga's About!
    Loved it. Glad I purchased it. I didn't really understand yoga before reading this book. I learned that yoga is way more than being a human pretzel. Yoga is a mind, body and spiritual practice. It is about experiencing clarity and peace within your moment to moment experiences. I highly recommend this book to anyone who is even remotely interested in yoga. ...more info
  • Yoga is more complex then just poses. This book shows you!
    This book is a great starting point for an understanding of yoga and what it really is.
    Yoga is more then just poses to get skinny. Yoga is a way to make you happier, healthy, and strong.
    If you start yoga in a class at a gym you will not learn as much as you could if read his book. Most yoga in the US is the non threatining version. An ex-aerobics instructor who took 20 hours of yoga teaching classes is not fit to teach the real yoga.
    This book is not trying to change your religion. Hindus are not expected to do yoga. Any god of your choice (or no god) will do.
    Yoga is a philosophy not a religion. This book gives you the why and the how. Holding poses is not yoga. You need this book to know why you do things in yoga. If you read this, your practice of yoga will be better and you will get 100 times more out of it.
    Buy the book before you buy any other yoga book....more info
  • Invaluable - wish I'd had this thirty years ago
    I wish I'd had this book thirty years ago when I first started yoga. The discussion of dynamic and static poses, and using dynamic poses to move into static poses is excellent, as is the discussion of modifying poses and variations of breathing. The book is eminently readable and it's true that this is the kind of book you use every day to improve your own practice....more info
  • forget the rest, this is the best!
    Many yoga books and classes these days overly emphasise the asana, the postures. As a consequence the idea of achieving perfect postures has become synonomous with Yoga. Desikachar lays out in simple and easy to follow writing, the idea that the postures are but one of the many tools of yoga. Furthermore he emphasises the concept of adapting the yoga to suit the individual, rather than the individual attempting to force themselves to suit the yoga. An absolutely brilliant book that demystifies asana, pranayama, and bandha, and gives an excellent account of what yoga actually is. Desikachar's approach applies to everyone no matter what 'style' of yoga you are doing. The concepts he discusses are universally applicable....more info
  • Required reading for understanding yoga
    I am dismayed that so many members think of yoga as part of a new age mentality that is the antithesis of religion or an alternative to any faith. "The Heart of Yoga" by Desikachar does much to dispel this myth. Yoga is not a religion, although for the vast part of its existence has been practiced by people who have adhered to Hinduism. Yoga is a comprehensive approach to mental and physical health, which may fall under the rubric of alternative health systems, but as it has existed for millennia, there is nothing "new" about its age.

    Desikachar's book discusses the history of yoga and its practicality for today. A copy of Patanjali's "Yoga Sutra" is included in the appendix of the book. The Yoga Sutra is a collection of inspirational maxims for how to approach life. In some of their writing they acknowledge one's connection to a divine entity, or a concept greater than our selves, but it never defines this entity or commands any sort of conceptualization for what many would refer to as God.

    Yoga is more than just a series of poses, which have gained popularity as an exercise fad. It is a philosophy that commands the respect of life and recommends dietary practices to purges the body of yama, which we could be referred to as toxins; the accumulation of which make a person prone to disease and mental anxiety. Poses also have therapeutic benefits in that they release hormones and antibodies in addition to toxins, by compressing, stretching, and releasing various glands and muscles of the body. Desikachar writes about the history of experienced yoga teachers, who did not design one series of yoga poses for every one, but looked at the needs of particular individuals and assigned poses based on their needs; such as did the person have trouble sleeping, digesting food, or a physical ailment that needed to be addressed. He offers suggestions for poses that can help address common maladies, as well as a series of poses that address the mot popular affliction that people from the modern world suffer.

    The book also spends much time on teaching the reader on how the physical practice can be spiritual; that one's approach or aversion to a particular pose may reflect a person's approach to challenges in life. One finishes the book learning how to make meditation out of movement; a practice which increase perception of ourselves and our environment.
    ...more info
  • Distills ancient yoga teachings to insightful fundamentals
    This book, for me, has been wonderful. The author's tone of voice is fully inclusive, non-judgemental, and open. It invites all people to come to know the eternal meanings through study of self through yoga. He emphasizes that the most effective way to know what is the right action for yourself, in any situation, is to follow the paths of yoga to learn more about yourself and your inherent motivations.

    He sees yoga as being approachable from unlimited directions. Some people will prefer pranayama (breathing) or mediation over asanas (postures) and he believes that yoga can be as unique as the yogi. In the end, all the paths of yoga lead to awareness, so it doesn't matter how you begin.

    As for being non-judegmental, if you smoke, for example, he would never condemn or judge you. If that is what arises truly from within you, then so it is. He would add, i'm sure, that yoga would likely make it less necessary to smoke, but that preoccupation is not his. He is razor focused on helping the reader clarify his or her own place in the universe through yoga.

    This book will likely help anyone take their yoga practice to a higher level....more info

  • A Must Have
    With the possible exception of McAfee, no-one alive today understands more about the heart and soul of yoga than Desikachar.

    If you have reached the point in your yoga practice where asanas alone have not provided yoga's promise of self-completeness, then get this book, find a quiet corner and indulge yourself. You will not be disappointed....more info

  • the heart of yoga
    The book is in great conditions. I love it. thank you....more info
  • Truly Inspirational!
    Truly Inspirational!
    I absolutely love this book! I'm reading it slowly for a second time and will likely read it a tenth. I have been a practicing yoga student for years, but this book has really opened my mind to a more complete understanding of yoga. It seems that many books get lost in the mechanics of poses or treat it purely as a way to get great abs.

    In contrast this book emphasizes a steady, safe and incremental path to learning yoga. It embraces all forms of practice and is refreshingly absent of persuasion towards any style. It discusses the importance of having a good teacher and learning techniques at the appropriate time and in the correct way. It covers all the branches of yoga and discusses the importance of ancient texts. It brings clarity to the purpose of yoga and how the mind, body and breath function together. And it is a wonderful window into another place and time into the lives of Desikachar and Krishnamacharya... a glimpse directly into the fountain of yoga.

    This book is perfect for anyone looking to deepen and expand their understanding of yoga....more info
  • A Must Have Book for Serious Yogis and Yoginis
    This book is outstanding in its presentation of yoga. The book gives outstanding and in depth detail of every aspect of yoga from asana to pranayama and lifestyle to mantra. This book is not one you read from cover to cover at one sitting but rather read, digest, intregrate into your practice and reflect/journal about what you have learned before returning for more. I recommend this book to all my serious students and to fellow practioners as well. Broaden and deepen your practice with this book. You will be rewarded for your efforts. Namaste!...more info
  • The Best Thing You'll Ever Do for Your Personal Practice
    What more can I say?
    The writing is clear, the content excellant, the illustrations informative. I found myself savoring the prose. The words used not only clearly define and explain topics, but also give the reader the chance to vicariously experience the topics.
    If you read it through, buying this book is definitely the best thing you'll ever do for you personal practice....more info
  • Complete and thorough guide for all
    Yoga is a personal endeavor and this book is one that guides you to this goal. I recommend anyone interested in Yoga to read this book....more info
  • History on Yoga
    Nice, easy book to understand yoga and where it came from. Good book to have to refer to every once in a while on history of teachers spreading yogic practices, on Pranayam and some basic yoga posture. Useful to me as a teacher. Reference book....more info
  • How to understand yoga?
    No introduction is needed for the author (son of famous yogacharya Sri T Krishnamacharya). I got interested in yoga after reading his series of articles in Indian magazines in late 1980s. First of all, this book is not an explanation of yoga poses (I recommend Light on Yoga for that). I first bought the book thinking its another book about yoga poses. But I was wrong. This book is exactly what the title says - how to develop a personal practice. The emphasise of the book is for the practitioner to observe himself/herself and see how he/she can augment the benefits of the poses. This is an invaluable and a very important step in learning yoga.

    Now, everytime I read it I find it throws more light on understanding yoga. I used to do yogic poses mechanically, but now I have a different perspective. The book really makes you think about an asana and how to improve yourself to benefit from it (the term for this is viniyoga). The emphasis is on gradually learning and enjoying each pose instead of hurrying to accomplish some asana. There are several tips for maximizing the benefits of asanas - for eg counterposes, developing breathing techniques by observing oneself etc. The explanation is lucid, the writing is so simple and effective. Several common questions are answered in Q&A format which is very helpful.

    The second part of the book contains Patanjali's yoga sutras in Sanskrit and followed by explanations in English. (Yoga sutras are the foundations of yogas in other words - the heart of yoga). The explanations are very simple and easy to understand....more info


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