It’s a compelling title: Power Yoga: An Individualized Approach to Strength, Grace, and Inner Peace (Ulrica Norberg, 2007). I hoped for a book that would help me craft a yoga practice that meets my unique (possible quirky) goals –and would help you do the same. Sadly, I didn’t get that. There are still reasons that this book might be interesting and valuable in a yoga collection, but not the reasons that the title suggests.
The book opens with a quote from Deepak Chopra misunderstanding Einstein. My first thought was “please, shoot me now”. But it gets better. You just have to get past that first bit. Norberg starts with a brief description of the types of yoga and the historical roots of yoga. There’s nothing particularly deep here, but it’s nice that she doesn’t shy away from potentially thorny questions such as ‘is yoga a religion?”. (No, in case you were wondering.)
From there, she moves on to the chakras, bandhas, and breathing. Again, there’s nothing particularly new (how could a description of yoga be new, exactly, anyway?) or deep, but her explanations are solid and helpful in their concise way.
Asanas, described in word and photographs make up the rest of the book, for all practical purposes. The photographs from Andreas Lundberg are beautiful. I have some quibbles here and there with Norberg’s form, but heaven forbid someone should take pictures of me doing those same postures. There are some rounded backs here and there. There’s a peculiar malasana variation whose point I don’t understand. And her sequencing within the sun salutations is new to me. I haven’t seen malasana in surya namaskara B before. I’m entirely willing to believe, though, that that could be because of my lack of experience. She repeats common yoga assertions regarding the benefits of certain yoga postures. Vrksasana reduces pancreas problems. The liver and spleen are energized in marichyasana. Really??? I get a little tweaked by these unsubstantiated, and probably unsubstantiatable, claims.
And I feel like the catty queen of the universe even typing this, but really, she chose the wrong outfit for doing yoga. There’s just not enough of it, and it’s distracting. It’s sort of like Rodney Yee and his Speedo. Sure, you look cute, but there’s such a thing as too much information. If someone came to class wearing that outfit, I’d spend the whole time worrying that there was going to be a disastrous wardrobe malfunction. It sort of messes with my meditative state.
But let’s not let cattiness rule here. There are genuinely good things about this book. In the posture descriptions, she offers both a beginner and advanced version. I think that must be the “individualized approach” bit. I guess I can say that it is both insufficient to my needs and nonetheless valuable. I particularly like her periodic mention of where drsti should be and where one’s anatomical attention should be. She occasionally points out common beginner misunderstandings of a posture, which I find to be really helpful. And there’s a strategy for getting into my all-time-nemesis posture, ustrasana, that might actually work for me. I’d buy the book for that alone.
The book concludes with a section on meditation and another section with questions and answers. The meditation section is similar to the asana section –similar strengths and similar weaknesses. The question and answer section is interesting. Again, she doesn’t shy away from the questions that some people stumble over. “What is a guru?” “Is yoga theory important?” These are good questions and she provides sensible, thoughtful answers. I’m a little daunted that she suggests that the Pradipika is an essential text. It probably is, but yikes. That’s a slog-fest if ever there was one.
To sum it all up, Norberg’s book is not an essential addition to anyone’s yoga library. On the other hand, it’s a friendly and helpful overview of and introduction to yoga. It’s not quite what the title suggested it might be, but it’s practical, and literate, and useful. That’s not a small addition to a corpus that includes more than enough nonsense.