Book Review: Light on Yoga: Yoga Dipika by B. K. S. Iyengar

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Krishnamachar Sundararaja Iyengar was born in India in 1918. Up until his death in August 2014, he was regarded as one of the most important yoga experts in the world. His 70 years of teaching yoga came about after his study under Tirumalai Krishnamacharya, known as the father of modern yoga.

B. K. S. Iyengar has written several books on yoga practice and philosophy. Through his personal teaching and his books, he is regarded as having one of the most major impacts on the popularization of yoga in India and around the world in the 20th century. Time magazine in 2004 named Iyengar as one of the 100 Most Influential People in the World.

The gregarious yoga teacher and author popularized and founded his own style of yoga, known appropriately as "Iyengar Yoga". He was awarded the Padma Shri, the 4th highest ranking civilian award in the Republic of India, in 1991 for positively affecting so many lives through yoga.

The Padma Bhushan (3rd highest civilian award) and the Padma Vibhushan (2nd highest civilian award) were subsequently earned as well. This influential yoga practitioner began teaching yoga at the age of 17. He is still recognized, posthumously, as possibly the leading authority on Hatha yoga that has ever lived.

Iyengar taught yoga as a treatment and even cure of illness and disease, and was awarded a Doctorate from the United Nations Charter for Peace. His 46 books on yoga practice and spirituality include Light on Fire, Light on Pranayama, and Yoga – the Path to Holistic Health, among other bestsellers.

The Idea

Iyengar has written dozens of books on some aspect of yoga, as mentioned above. The idea behind Light on Yoga: Yoga Dipika incorporates the teachings of many of his other books. The celebrated yoga author and teacher has created what is described by many as the "definitive guide to the philosophy and practice of yoga – the ancient healing discipline for body and mind".

No yoga stone is left un-turned. At a massive 544 pages, this "Bible of Modern Yoga" delivers all the beginner, intermediate or veteran yoga practitioner needs to enjoy a lifetime of yoga benefits. If you are looking for a single source to answer virtually any yoga question you have, Iyengar's Light on Yoga is arguably impossible to beat.

How the Book Is Laid Out

Light on Yoga begins with a foreword by Yehudi Menuhin, a noted American-born British and Swiss violinist and conductor. Menuhin studied yoga under Iyengar. He mentions the practice of yoga as inducing "a primary sense of measure and proportion." He makes the claim that yoga, "by its very nature", is directly associated with the universal laws, such as a healthy respect for truth and life.

As a musician, he compares the human body to our first instrument that we learn to play. He states that his past 15 years of practicing yoga (immediately before writing this foreword) convinced him that our attitudes, beliefs and behaviors have a physical basis in our body. This is how the physical practice of yoga can affect every mental, emotional and spiritual aspect of your life.

A thankful Preface by Iyengar then follows. The humble but accomplished yoga teacher and author thanks his friends and pupils for the inspiration to write this book. He explains that Yoga Dipika, the subtitle of the book, is the Sanskrit expression for Light on Yoga.

The author then expresses the purpose of this yoga resource - "... to describe as simply as possible the asanas (postures) and pranayamas (breathing disciplines) in the new light of our own era." You also learn that the huge size of the book is due to the fact that the author used "great detail" in the included photographs, descriptions and instructional advice contained within.

The Preface is followed by the book's Introduction, titled "What Is Yoga?" A full 36 pages is devoted to defining yoga. The message is given in a very simple way, so whether you have a deep understanding of yoga or none at all, this introduction is applicable.

The 2nd section of the book is titled "Yogosanas, Bandha and Kriya." Cautions and tips for the practice of asanas are given in areas such as cleanliness, bathing, food, time requirements, mental attitude, breathing and environment.

This is the bulk of the book, broken down into 2 subsections, Yogosanas, and Bandha and Kriya. A full 372 pages is devoted to the asanas of yoga. Each pose is accompanied by at least one picture, as well as an in-depth description and instruction on how to perform and hold that pose.

The proper technique for each pose is then discussed. This technique refers to individual illustrations which show you exactly how to perform the asana yourself. The techniques sections are very in depth, so that there is no doubt both beginners and veterans can use this instruction to perform a pose properly.

The book's 3rd section is entitled Pranayama. More than 130 pages are used to teach a multitude of proper yoga breathing techniques. As with the previous section, extreme care is taken to describe and illustrate each pranayama. There is a Hints and Cautions section which is as helpful as well.

The first Appendix follows, and delivers what may be the most value of the entire book. It is here where you will find a 300 week yoga course for what the author describes as the "intense practitioner". That is nearly 6 years of guided yoga from one of the greatest yoga teachers that has ever lived.

The 2nd Appendix is divided into different groups of asanas according to curative and therapeutic value. This is followed by a table which helps you correlate each asana with its associated illustration.

This is included because some asana illustrations are not located on the same page where that pose is described. This resource helps you quickly locate an asana illustration for proper form. A helpful Glossary and Index close out the book.

Who Benefits from Light on Yoga: Yoga Dipika by B. K. S. Iyengar?

This book is marketed as the "definitive guide to the philosophy and practice of Yoga--the ancient healing discipline for body and mind--by its greatest living teacher." Nevermind that Iyengar has passed on; the book delivers on that promise. This definitive yoga guide can benefit you if you are just getting started with this ancient Far East spiritual practice.

This also makes the perfect purchase for anyone that wants to expand their current yoga practice. More than 350 verified buyers on Amazon have given Light on Yoga: Yoga Dipika a nearly perfect 4.5 customer satisfaction rating out of a possible 5.0. That social proof comes from buyers of all ages, cultures and both sexes.

Those new to yoga have mentioned how easy the book is to understand and implement. Veteran yoga practitioners also speak of the knowledge they have derived from this important yoga tome. Iyengar composed 45 books on yoga besides this one in his lifetime. It can be argued that the 544 page Light on Yoga: Yoga Dipika is the most important yoga resource Iyengar ever wrote, and the only one you will ever need, regardless where you are on your spiritual path.

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