How to overcome the impracticality of Yoga books

Let’s face it, Yoga classes don’t come cheap and podcasts aren’t always suitable for beginner Yogis who may not know what an asana is supposed to look, or more importantly feel, like. Online classes are a sweet alternative – you get monthly access to hours and hours of Yoga for what you’d pay for a single class in a studio, but give up the benefit of an instructor’s corrections. Yet I feel books still have their place in our practice: they offer information both on poses and philosophy, details that may not be examined in the time-constricted environment of a class, and allow Yogis to study and practice at their own pace. But how do you efficiently follow a sequence that spans several pages without disrupting your practice?

If you’re the lucky owner of an iOS or Android device, you can use a Yoga app that allows you to build sequences – my personal favorite is Yoga Studio (iOS, $1.99). It’s not a perfect solution, as your chosen app may not include some of the poses or modifications you want to use. Still, it’s a viable option most of the time.

Another solution is using a timer/task manager app. E.g. I use 30/30 (iOS, free) to structure and time my Yin Yoga practices. This method provides more freedom than using a Yoga app, but is addressed to more experienced Yogis who know the asanas and want to try out a sequence without having to memorize it.

If you don’t own a smartphone, no big deal. Have you thought about making your own podcast? You can use a program such as Audacity (cross-platform, free) to record pose instructions (your own or taken straight from the book), and time them as needed (a bit trickier when dealing with flow sequences). You can even add music tracks as background if you like, though I would suggest backing up your voice-only track in case you want to play around some more with it.

Finally, an option for the technologically-challenged is using a Yoga deck. I got Rodnee Yee’s Yoga: Poetry of the Body deck and book (it really helped since at the time I hadn’t bought my iPod Touch yet), but there are several other decks in the market that probably have more asana variety. Still, ready-made decks have the same limitation as Yoga apps – they might not contain the poses you’re looking for – even more so, in fact, since they only have about 50 cards each. The alternative is to build your own deck. You could use blank index cards and write out concise instructions for each pose. You could even xerox and cut out photos of the asanas from the book and paste them on the back of the cards (or sketch the poses yourself if you’re artistically inclined). If you’re not willing or able to invest the amount of time it would take to build a deck from scratch, I’d suggest buying a ready-made deck, and customizing it by adding your own cards of missing poses.

What tools do you use to bring written sequences to life?

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