BOOK REVIEW: Beth Shaw’s Yogafit

Title: Beth Shaw’s Yogafit (3rd Edition)
Author: Beth Shaw
Publisher: Human Kinetics Australia 2016, ISBN-13: 9781492507406.
Details: Paperback, 336 pages
RRP: $30.95 OR $23.22 for Network Members who have joined the Human Kinetics Rewards program HERE and use the promo code NETWORK17 at checkout.

Review by Peter Lawler

Welcome to another contemporary visitation to the ancient Indian philosophy of yoga. You would most likely be unaware of the fact that yoga is one of the six orthodox systems of philosophy called darshans in Indian society. Specifically, yoga is based on the thoughts of Samkhya, an individual who believed that the world evolved in eight phases or stages. The role of yoga was to reverse the order of these evolutionary steps so that an individual may enter his perfect state of purity and consciousness sooner rather than later. The complete passage may take several lifetimes and there are tasks to complete for a satisfactory entry into the next...  and so it goes. Yoga’s success in the Western World focused on the third stage: cleanliness, suppleness and flexibility. In two words, sedate exercise.

For endless decades, the stereotypical image of a yoga disciple was an Indian rubber man, muscle-less, hairless, draped in a bed sheet, often mistaken for Mahatma Gandhi, devoid of shoes, tying his body into knots that any seasoned Scout master would be proud of. Some devotees had to hire a locksmith to untangle the human reef knot... Not anymore!

Welcome to the world of the impressive Beth Shaw. She is the president of her own company, Yoga Fit Inc, the largest yoga school in the world with 250,000 trained YogaFit instructors. This is the third edition of Beth’s bestseller. Previous editions have sold in excess of 100,000 copies, and her supplementary texts include Yoga Lean, Yoga Butt and The YogaFit Athlete. She is today’s woman immersed in ancient lore.

YogaFit is a beguiling, soothing text. Smooth tissue softness pages, pastel coloured positional photographs of competent models and crystal clear instructions for each and every exercise and pose. All very enticing – and all so easy.

Beth has constructed a twelve chapter text that has been corralled into three parts: Part 1. Preparing to be YogaFit: Lifestyle, essentials for exercise and so forth; Part II. Purposeful Poses: Core strength and Stability, standing and balance poses, backward bends twists, deep relaxation exercises and inversions; and Part III. Putting it All Together: suitable workouts for fitness, therapy and meditation.

Part 1 chapter 1 is Lifestyle. Occidental readers have an opportunity to read and absorb what is identified as ‘the eight limbs’. These are the eight stages referred to above. The benefits are espoused: relaxation, improved posture, better tone and muscular strength and improved mobility. Despite the focus on breathing, the great weakness of yoga is the apparent absence of aerobic exercise called puffing! Clearly, you cannot have it all. For those adherents of yoga, the Lifestyle chapters espouse the philosophy, the pathways, the esoteric breathing and so on.

Part II is why you will buy this book – it’s exercise time! Once an exercise is identified, it is domiciled on a two page pastel spread accompanied by cogent instruction which direct the Yogatee to ‘Getting Into the Pose’, ‘holding the pose’ while investigating possible modifications. The exercise journey is launched on page 42 and reaches its destination at Page 229. Why would such a book sell 100,000 copies? The answer is simple: user-friendly exercises (identified throughout as ‘poses’) and realistic expectations. The instructions coupled to the illustrations of said poses are pertinent to over one hundred poses in this book.

Part III compiles the poses into specific workout programs. Beth offers four: beginners Yoga, Flex and flow, YogaCore and Power YogaFit. This is a sequence that increases the time to completion and intensity. Once again, the program component is generous: 60 pages.

YogaFit concludes with two slim chapters on the value of yoga as therapy and meditation. Given the troubled times in which we live, perhaps we all should take up yoga as therapy to sooth the furrowed brow. Meditation is optional.


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