It is only thanks to the persistent encouragement of my devoted friends and pupils that this book is now achieved - for alone I would have repeatedly faltered not only because of my inadequate command of the English language but because I would have lost heart without their buoyant support and assurance.
Yoga is a timeless pragmatic science evolved over thousands of years dealing with the physical, moral, mental and spiritual well-being of man as a whole.
The first took to systematize this practice was the classic treatise the Yoga Sutras (or Aphorisms) of Pataiijali dating from 200 bc. Unfortunately most of the books published on Yoga in our day have been unworthy of both the subject and its first great exponent, as they are superficial, popular and at times misleading. I have even been asked by their readers whether I can drink acid, chew glass, walk through fire, make myself invisible or perform other magical acts. Scholarly and reliable expositions of the religious and philosophical texts already exist in most languages - but the practice of an art is more difficult to communicate than a purely literary or philosophical concept.
The original title of this book was The Concise Light on Yoga. Based upon my Light on Yoga, which describes simply but in great detail the asanas (postures) and pranayamas (breathing disciplines), this book provides a comprehensive introduction to yoga. It describes the techniques for 57 asanas with the aid of 146 photographs and it also covers pranayama with the aid of another four photographs. This new large format edition makes it even more accessible.
The Western reader may be surprised at the recurring reference to the Universal Spirit, to mythology and even to philosophical and moral principles. He must not forget that in ancient times all the higher achievements of man, in knowledge, art and power, were part of religion and were assumed to belong to God and to His priestly servants on earth. The Catholic Pope is the last such embodiment of divine knowledge and power in the West. But formerly, even in the Western world, music, painting, architecture, philosophy and medicine, as well as wars, were always in the service of God. It is only very recently in India that these arts and sciences have begun to shake off the Divine - but with due respect, for the emancipation of man's will, as distinct from the
Divine will, we in India continue to value the purity of purpose, the humility of discipline and the selflessness that are the legacy of our long bondage to God. I consider it important as well as interesting that the reader should know the origin of asanas, and I have, therefore, included legends handed down by practising yogis and sages.
All the ancient commentaries on yoga have stressed that it is essential to work under the direction of a guru (Master), and although my experience proves the wisdom of this rule, I have endeavoured with all humility in this book to guide the reader - both teacher and student - to a correct and safe method of mastering these asanas and pranayamas.
In the Appendix, I have introduced a 35 weeks' course for the intense practitioner, grouping the asanas stage by stage according to their structure.
Study in detail the hints and cautions before attempting the asana and pranayama techniques.
I am sincerely grateful to my esteemed friend and pupil Mr Yehudi Menuhin for his foreword and immeasurable support.
I am indebted to my pupil Mr B. I. Taraporewala for his collaboration in the preparation of this book.
I express my sincere gratitude to Messrs G. G. Welling of Poona (India), for their personal supervision and interest in taking innumerable photographs for me and for placing the resources of their studio at my disposal.
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