Book review: Strength & Grace: A collection of essays by women of Ashtanga Yoga
As soon as Ekaminhale started advertising bite-sized snippets of Strength & Grace on social media and via email, I knew I wanted to read more. I impatiently contacted Clint at Ekaminhale and commented on most of the Facebook posts. I wanted to read this book!
After what felt like almost a year, this beautifully published book landed on my doormat. I took myself, pencil in hand to my comfy chair and set to reading. I knew I would be making notes in the margins and on the page, as I had come to already appreciate what each of these women had said to (what felt like) me personally, on Facebook. For example this statement:
“The book is a collection of essays written by established Ashtanga Yoga practitioners- all female. They reveal how they have maintained their Ashtanga Yoga practices as they journey into various stages of life. Through the recollections of these exceptional women, we are given a glimpse of how powerful – and healing – the Ashtanga system can be when practiced with wisdom and patience.
This collection of essays provides guidance on how to develop and maintain a regular practice with an awareness – not a rejection – of the unique qualities of a woman’s body. It is through their words that we see the strength and grace that is open to all of us who show up to practice with devotion and an open heart.”
I can’t say which chapter or writer was my favourite, but I found myself scribbling and nodding most of the time. Each described their relationship with either Sri K. Pattabhi Jois (endearingly known as ‘Guruji’) or Sharath Jois with such love and respect. They describe their devotion to their teacher in an inspiring and touching way. Words such as surrender, peace, fear, and change all resonated with me.
“Sri K. Pattabhi Jois was and is a force of grace in my life. He taught me in so many ways, many of those teachings have yet to take hold.” Lisa Schrempp
The preface by Alicia Beale explains why she sought to create a book that didn’t already exist. She was struggling with injuries whilst practicing Ashtanga Yoga and was wondering if the practice was really meant for women.
This book shares stories of each individual woman and her experience with the practice – through injury, motherhood, menstruation and frustration. Some give tips and instructions on how to modify your practice and how to heal your practice. Others are open and honest about their pain and suffering.
“Ashtanga can appear to be a very masculine practice to those who are newer to it…However, in order to extract its deepest benefits, it must also become deeply feminine, for all of us, men and women alike. Acceptance and surrender- things so foreign to us westerners- creep into our lives as the practice delivers her beautiful wisdom. We begin to realize that this acceptance and surrender, this softness and receiving, are foundations for lasting happiness.” Pamela Luther
I love this book, and I recommend it. I know I will read and re-read it many times over.