Main’s accessible volume is an exemplary introduction to the thought, theory and texture of modern-day yoga.
As his title indicates, Main describes today’s yoga practitioner as an â€œurban mystic,” a seeker continually forced to balance spiritual pursuits with the exigencies of real life–job, relationships, money, sex. This approach is both novel and practical: The author does not expect us to eschew modern life and install ourselves under a bodhi tree. He instead defines yoga as a â€œmiddle path,” a way of living that restores peace and unity to a life lived in the contemporary world. This is not a guidebook or encyclopedia of poses and stretches but a comprehensive exploration of the tenets behind them. And as such, it is very good. The first section features clear definitions of the basic principles of yoga. His understanding of the practice–or â€œscience,” as the ancients characterized it–is relatively simple: Each individual body houses an atman, a true, divine self. However, most have forgotten about its transcendent beauty. This atman is a diamond covered in mud, and the practice of yoga is the process of cleaning away years of grime to reveal a perfect gem. The second section is a comprehensive close reading of one of the foundational texts of yogic practice: Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra. In this section, Main takes us through the most important principles of the ancient guru’s system. The author bases his exploration of yoga on years of experience as both a practitioner and a teacher, and he supplements his own personal experience with a wide-ranging knowledge of ancient texts whose complexities he unravels by pointing out similarities to more familiar (for Westerners) sources of wisdom: Jesus, Einstein, Saint Paul, Isaac Newton.
Erudite, lucid and enlightening.