Book review: Yoga for a World Out of Balance: Teachings on Ethics and Social Action (Michael Stone)

Via on Dec 12, 2009

Yoga-for-a-World-Out-of-Balance-cover

Yoga for a World Out of Balance is Michael Stone’s well written follow up to his excellent book, The Inner Tradition of Yoga. In this book, Stone analyzes the five yamas of yoga and discusses how they can (and should) be incorporated into daily life.

Yoga for a World Out of Balance can either be read cover to cover or, since the yamas are not meant to be thought of as linear, step by step principles on a checklist, it can be read in a method suited to the individual reader.  Stone makes yoga spiritual without being religious and without getting “hippy-dippy New-Age” about it.  It’s clear that he cares very deeply about all aspects of yoga; it comes through in his writing.

Rather than a “if this happens, do this because it fits with this yama” handbook, Yoga for a World Out of Balance provides guiding principles with a holistic vision that sees beyond simple black and white into the more complex issues of today.  Stone is able to effectively demonstrate that the principles of yoga are just as relevant today as they were 2,000+ years ago, if not even more so.

Yoga for a World Out of Balance is highly recommended for those looking to truly take yoga off the mat and into their entire life, just as Patañjali intended all along.  Printed on 100% post-consumer recycled paper by Shambhala Publications and available from you local, independent bookstore.  (Shop independent, shop local, and tell ‘em you saw it on Elephant Journal!)

About Todd Mayville

Todd is a single dad of four diverse and lively kids, and is an English teacher and climbing team coach at a local public high school. A rock climber, cyclist and avid reader, Todd also practices yoga and meditation as often as he possibly can, which helps him stay at least a little centered and sane.

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13 Responses to “Book review: Yoga for a World Out of Balance: Teachings on Ethics and Social Action (Michael Stone)”

  1. Thanks Todd!

    If this is half as good as Michael Stone's last book, this will definitely be worth reading.

  2. Another fine review, Todd. Obviously you have a lot of loyal readers who look forward to each new review, judging from your high number of views.

    Here's an interesting and perhaps provocative question. How do the Yamas and Niyamas compare and contrast to the ethical precepts of Judeo/Christianity? I have deep backgrounds in both Catholicism (raised ultra-traditional) and Judaism (married into a Jewish family and raised kids Jewish).

    When I first started studying Yoga and the Yoga Sutras I kind of skipped over the Yamas and Niyamas because they seemed pretty much the same as what I had already been taught since I was a kid in parochial schools. In fact, the Yamas and Niyamas seemed like an almost one-for one match with the Ten Commandments.

    So I went past them to the parts of Yoga which were new and different to me–the asana, the meditation, the pranayama, the advanced consciousness, etc. The Yamas and Niyamas receive only a cursory mention in my eBook: "Yoga scriptures have strong and clear moral teachings which are similar to any religions."

    Recently I've come back the Yamas and Niyamas and wonder if I've missed the boat a little (or a lot!). What do you think the Yoga Sutras add to what we've already learned about ethical behavior if we were raised in a strong Judeo-Christian tradition?

    I'm guessing reading Michael Stone's books will help me figure that out.

    Bob Weisenberg
    http://YogaDemystified.com

  3. Another fine review, Todd. Obviously you have a lot of loyal readers who look forward to each new review, judging from your high number of views.

    Here's an interesting and perhaps provocative question. How do the Yamas and Niyamas compare and contrast to the ethical precepts of Judeo/Christianity? I have deep backgrounds in both Catholicism (raised ultra-traditional) and Judaism (married into a Jewish family and raised kids Jewish).

    When I first started studying Yoga and the Yoga Sutras I kind of skipped over the Yamas and Niyamas because they seemed pretty much the same as what I had already been taught since I was a kid in parochial schools. In fact, the Yamas and Niyamas seemed like an almost one-for one match with the Ten Commandments.

    So I went past them to the parts of Yoga which were new and different to me–the asana, the meditation, the pranayama, the advanced consciousness, etc. The Yamas and Niyamas receive only a cursory mention in my eBook: "Yoga scriptures have strong and clear moral teachings which are similar to any religions."

    Recently I've come back the Yamas and Niyamas and wonder if I've missed the boat a little (or a lot!). What do you think the Yoga Sutras add to what we've already learned about ethical behavior if we were raised in a strong Judeo-Christian tradition?

    I'm guessing reading Michael Stone's books will help me figure that out.

    Bob Weisenberg
    http://YogaDemystified.com

  4. Another fine review, Todd. Obviously you have a lot of loyal readers who look forward to each new review, judging from your high number of views.

    Here's an interesting and perhaps provocative question. How do the Yamas and Niyamas compare and contrast to the ethical precepts of Judeo/Christianity? I have deep backgrounds in both Catholicism (raised ultra-traditional) and Judaism (married into a Jewish family and raised kids Jewish).

    When I first started studying Yoga and the Yoga Sutras I kind of skipped over the Yamas and Niyamas because they seemed pretty much the same as what I had already been taught since I was a kid in parochial schools. In fact, the Yamas and Niyamas seemed like an almost one-for one match with the Ten Commandments.

    So I went past them to the parts of Yoga which were new and different to me–the asana, the meditation, the pranayama, the advanced consciousness, etc. The Yamas and Niyamas receive only a cursory mention in my eBook: "Yoga scriptures have strong and clear moral teachings which are similar to any religions."

    Recently I've come back the Yamas and Niyamas and wonder if I've missed the boat a little (or a lot!). What do you think the Yoga Sutras add to what we've already learned about ethical behavior if we were raised in a strong Judeo-Christian tradition?

    I'm guessing reading Michael Stone's books will help me figure that out.

    Bob Weisenberg
    http://YogaDemystified.com

  5. Another fine review, Todd. Obviously you have a lot of loyal readers who look forward to each new review, judging from your high number of views.

    Here's an interesting and perhaps provocative question. How do the Yamas and Niyamas compare and contrast to the ethical precepts of Judeo/Christianity? I have deep backgrounds in both Catholicism (raised ultra-traditional) and Judaism (married into a Jewish family and raised kids Jewish).

    When I first started studying Yoga and the Yoga Sutras I kind of skipped over the Yamas and Niyamas because they seemed pretty much the same as what I had already been taught since I was a kid in parochial schools. In fact, the Yamas and Niyamas seemed like an almost one-for one match with the Ten Commandments.

    So I went past them to the parts of Yoga which were new and different to me–the asana, the meditation, the pranayama, the advanced consciousness, etc. The Yamas and Niyamas receive only a cursory mention in my eBook: "Yoga scriptures have strong and clear moral teachings which are similar to any religions."

    Recently I've come back the Yamas and Niyamas and wonder if I've missed the boat a little (or a lot!). What do you think the Yoga Sutras add to what we've already learned about ethical behavior if we were raised in a strong Judeo-Christian tradition?

    I'm guessing reading Michael Stone's books will help me figure that out.

    Bob Weisenberg
    http://YogaDemystified.com

  6. Claudia Azula Altucher Claudia says:

    i read the Inner Tradition of Yoga and it is one of my favorite books, I also started listening to some of his online lectures, looking forward to his views on this new book, thanks for posting, I did not know he had a new book

  7. This article and my comment above generated a whole stream of discussion on Facebook, which I will copy into the next few comments here:

    John Morrison–Bob I think this is an interesting observation & one Im not prepared to answer without looking a bit further. From the perspective of Buddhism some of the code if conduct looks quite similar to Christianity, but beneath the surface and the manner in which practitioners apply the teachings in modern life, is quite different and I wonder if the same might not be true in this instance?
    December 16 at 9:33pm

    Bob Weisenberg–Thanks for you thoughts, John. Perhaps you are right. But it seems to me that once one gets into actual practice and "adherence" there are very wide variations in all religions, from the best to the worst.
    December 16 at 11:27pm

  8. John Morrison–Yes, I would agree with that. Superficially, people will say "oh, all religions say the same thing: peace, love, etc" but a little deeperand everything is quite different.
    Thu at 6:32am

    Chris Courtney–Bob, I asked myself the same question years ago and found the Yamas and Niyamas are more expansive than the 10 commandements and more vital to our soul. Ahimsa demands more compassion than "thou shalt not kill" (which seems restricted only to not killing humans), aparigraha asks us not to take and hoard more than we need while the 10 cmdts only … See Moreasks not to covet your neighbor's stuff (or wife). Its hard to know whether those 10 cmdts were once more similar to the yamas and niyamas but I've found the latter to be a more promising path than the former. Peace, Chris
    Fri at 7:06pm

  9. Bob Weisenberg–Thanks, Chris. What you're saying makes sense. Except don't underestimate the breadth of interpretation given to the Ten Commandments in tradtional Catholicism.

    The nuns taught us that the Ten Commandments were just shorthand for all morality, and they expanded the meaning of the Ten Commandments to be at least as broad as the Yamas and … See MoreNiyamas. That's why they seem so similar to a good Catholic school boy. Perhaps it's different in other forms of Christianity, or less orthodox Catholicism.

    I need to write a blog about this to generate some more discussion. This has been a great start.
    Fri at 8:09pm

  10. Chris Courtney–Bob, I look forward to a deeper discussion on your blog. It sounds like we had different nuns but its also hard to know how the 10Cmdts (not to mention the yamas/niyamas) evolved as they were passed down and interpreted over the centuries. I think they probably started with the same ideas but the way they are interpreted today seems a bit different.

    Bob Weisenberg–Anytime, Chris. I don't mean to say they are equivalent, only that when I first read the Yamas and Niyamas they seemed so familiar and intuitive to me that I just skipped right by them to the things I found to be different about Yoga spirituality.

    I do have to give some credit to my teachers for that, but my parents were also super-kind people who exhibited a very high degree of Yama and Niyama type morality in their everyday life.

  11. I will continue to try to see the Yamas and Niyamas with fresh eyes, and to see how they are different than the morality I learned as a kid. But right now they still seem pretty much the same to me. Could be that's just not where my interests are…. See More

    That said, I do feel that the usual American Yoga approach to Yoga philosophy is way out of whack in giving a vast majority of attention to the Yama and Niyama, which, afterall, are only a very small part of the Yoga Sutra.

    And, in my opinion, the Yoga Sutra gets 90% of the attention at the expense of the Bhagavad Gita and Upanishads, which is also way out of whack. I hope I can make some small contribution to changing that with my eBook.

    Thanks for writing. I've enjoyed this exchange.

    Bob Weisenberg
    http://YogaDemystified.com

  12. [...] Yoga for a World Out of Balance: Teachings on Ethics and Social Action by Michael Stone.  Stone’s The Inner Tradition of Yoga made last year’s list; his [...]

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