Book: Anatomy of Hatha Yoga by H. David Coulter, Timothy McCall
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Coulter's comprehensive book provides a new bridge between the empirical traditions of yoga science, and Western physiology and anatomy. He uses his deep knowledge of both sides of the divide to provide detailed accounts of what is happening during yoga asanas and pranayama breathing. While I had expected this to be useful in providing answers for questions that I, my colleagues and students have had, trying to fit yoga into a Western scientific context, I have been delighted to find that there is a feedback loop, with the Western analysis making it easier to maintain the detailed instructions I had previously learned from teachers and other books.
This is an impressively detailed and exhaustive book, including coverage of movement and posture, breathing, many categories of asana, and relaxation and meditation. In each case, the physiological information is linked to practice, and often different levels of the posture are discussed. The writing style is clear and informal. There are anatomical diagrams, charts of breathing patterns, and photographs of the poses, but this is a long way from the current trend towards thumbnail pictures of every stage of a pose.
In such a thorough and dense volume (over 600 pages in all) the major challenge is easy access to specific information when you need it. There are two indexes, by anatomical term and by specific practices, but I would have welcomed more context within the indexes (for example, to direct me to the most appropriate of 12 mentions of the synovial joint). I think my carping on this topic will diminish my familiarity with the content grows, as I use the book more over the months and years -- which I certainly intend to do. Highly recommended.