Yoga Beyond Belief

Ganga'sBook2.1.14There are a myriad of yoga books these days, many of which offer valuable information, and others that provide beautiful photos of great bodies in unusual positions. One of my favorite books, Yoga Beyond Belief, is more thought-provoking and insightful than it is visual. It is written by an internationally well-known yoga teacher whom I have knows for about 40 years (yikes!), Ganga White. He and his partner and wife, Tracey Rich, founded and run the White Lotus Foundation in Santa Barbara, CA. Through their yoga teacher training programs, Ganga is responsible for educating and encouraging thousands of blossoming new yoga teachers. I recommend their course to any aspiring yogis who want to expand their practice to include teaching others. (See the contact information below if you are interested in learning more about them and their program.*)

Dr. Andrew Weil, respected MD and author of Eating Well for Optimal Health, referred to Ganga as a “noted renegade yogi” and I agree that Ganga has been a frontrunner in questioning and challenging old traditions. I have always seen him as stating the obvious that others have not dared to vocalize. Joel Kramer, author of The Guru Papers and A Passionate Mind says that “This (Ganga’s) book can make yoga meaningful to people who never imagined it could be.  It is a tour de force of deconstructing tradition and making yoga a powerful, exploratory vehicle for modern times.”

With its growing popularity, there are now also many more yoga schools and philosophies.  Many people can be seen carrying yoga mats and it is not unusual to hear conversations not only about poses, but about yoga beliefs and principles.  And, I think with his “Insights to Awaken and Deepen Your Practice” (the subheading of his book), Ganga offers much food for thought for anyone practicing yoga –newbies as well as seasoned older teachers.

For those new to yoga, he explains in clear, easy-to-understand language about many of the ancient concepts and aspects of yoga. In statements such as “our understanding of spirituality needs to grow and evolve beyond the limits of tradition and ancient mappings” (page 204) Ganga tells us to “grow outside the box” at a time when so many are now trying to emulate the East. An example is in his discussion of meditation. It is commonly thought that to meditate, one needs to learn how to sit for long periods and “empty the mind” or focus on a mantra. But Ganga frees the reader from these boundaries by explaining that “…inner silence is still only one petal of the flowering mind…a questioning mind, an intelligent mind, a flexible mind, an open mind…these are just a few of the myriad valuable capacities of the mind” (page 172-3) and he suggests sometimes walking out in a forest to appreciate nature instead of just sitting. Simple.

Along with his charming stories, Ganga makes this book not only thought-provoking but also fun to read. I encourage all my students to read it and hope that others will do the same. This book is a gem and I recommend it to anyone who wants to “stand on the shoulders of the past to find out how we can see a bit farther.” (page 11)

If you have any question or comments, feel free to email me at shsh@yogawithshoosh.com.

*If you are interested in ordering this book, you can go directly to the White Lotus website at www.whitelotus.org/books_dvds.html or call them to order at 805-964-1944.