Sunday, February 7, 2010

Books: The Breathing Book, by Donna Farhi

As a seasoned yogi, many of the exercises suggested by Donna Farhi in The Breathing Book are rather elementary—that is, I've already been doing them for years. The average urban 9-5er non-yogi would certainly benefit from starting the breath practices she outlines, but I wonder whether that person would be able to execute her exercises—and the subtle set-ups, with bolsters and stacks of blankets—in a safe and productive way. I've personally never learned how to do anything from a book, other than read and write. Perhaps there are people who can, but in the constant shifting back to the text, how is one supposed to really lie down, close one's eyes, and imagine breath in the belly and the pelvis, or the outer rib cage and the back? It might work as an audio book.

Farhi's style is also a little folksy, although one can feel immediately that she is well-intentioned and targeting a lay audience. For someone who already has a yoga/meditation/breath practice, but feels the breath sticking in certain spots (this is why I read the book), the final pages, a series of sequenced exercises targeted to various complaints (headaches, depression, sinusitis, etc.) are the most valuable. The beginning pages, too, in which she carefully diagrams the respiratory system and its movement through the muscular-skeletal system, depicting the rocking of of the pelvis with breath, and the movement of the diaphragm and pelvic floor, are helpful , even if you already have a basic kinesthetic knowledge. This is not the kind of book that you check out of the library, read through, absorb, and return. It's a handbook that serves as a decent reference for yoga beginners. Unfortunately, though Farhi clearly hopes to address readers who are stressed out, frazzled, anxious, and harried, it is unlikely that audience will have the patience to do mindful exercises out of a book.

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