I'll begin this review with a disclosure: Charlotte Bell is my yoga teacher. I write this even though it's been at least a year and a half since I've been in class. But I consider Charlotte to be my teacher because her lessons stay with me whether I'm engaged in active practice or not. The examples she sets with her grounding, her grace, the authenticity of her practice, and her sneaky sense of humor continually inspire me.
Charlotte's latest book, Yoga for Meditators: Poses to Support Your Sitting Practice, is designed to assist those who are challenged by the "rigors of sitting." Now you may laugh upon reading that phrase. I did when I encountered it in Charolotte's book, even though I get it. Anyone who has meditated for any period of time will nod in recognition upon hearing it. As Charlotte points out in her introduction, while we may sit at computers or desks all day, we don't sit all day. Our bodies aren't accustomed to holding still for extended periods of time, especially in particular poses.
Yoga for Meditators is divided into four parts: the most common physical issues for sitting meditators, poses selected to ease those issues, sequences of asanas (poses) for specific concerns, and alternate meditation postures. Each section is amply illustrated and written in Charlotte's quiet, knowledgeable prose. If you're a person coming to yoga through meditation, you'll find the poses very easy to understand and execute. Her tips for using props or making positioning adjustments will prove most helpful for beginners and experienced practitioners alike. Meditators will also find her attention to breathing helpful. Instructions for the asanas are so clear and detailed that I can almost hear Charlotte's voice as I read the words.
Charolotte's clear writing style makes this book readable and easy to use. But if it weren't backed up by solid knowledge, the book wouldn't be nearly so valuable. Bell's years of practice, teaching and study are the solid foundation of this work. Her knowledge of anatomy and its application in yogic practice is exquisite. Her explanation of how to find the proper curvature of one's spine in the Wall Dog Pose is a fine example, "Reach one hand back, and place your fingers on your lumbar spine. If you feel the knobby processes poking out in your lower back, walk your hands up the wall a few inches. When The spinous processes poke out, it's a signal your lumbar spine is in a convex, rather than concave, curve." Don't worry by the time you read that you will have already read a description of the spine and seen a diagram of it.
I haven't seen many books like Yoga for Meditators in the past, which is surprising. As Charlotte notes, "Asana practice, by its very nature, is about preparing the body for meditation." There isn't a lot we do with our bodies these days that supports sitting. So this book will be a fine addition to the library of anyone who sits or is beginning a meditative practice. It's also a nice book for those, like me, who may want a refresher on positioning the body in asanas and maybe a guided sequence or two.
CHARLOTTE BELL WILL READ AND SIGN AT WELLER BOOK WORKS SATURDAY, JUNE 2 AT 6:00 P.M.