The Heart of Practice: Understanding Yoga from the Inside fuses two of my passions: Zen Buddhism and yoga.
The practical chapters resonated with me the most, particularly the ones on asana, pranayama and sitting. Sen-Gupta’s tone is gentle, her touch light. This is not a manual of instructions, just a book of thoughts by someone who is on the path, and her views are valuable and worth consideration.
The chapter on death and dying was unexpected and I found it interesting to consider how the ideas in Zen and yoga can apply to end of life situations. Sen-Gupta describes in depth the process of her own father’s death, in an honest and heartfelt way. I had previously not given much thought to how these Eastern philosophies deal with death and dying, and I found this to be quite thought-provoking.
I was admittedly struck, however, by some slight inconsistencies when Sen-Gupta talks about meditation. She uses the phrase “practice is the reward,” which contradicts Zen Master Dogen, who teaches that the practice of meditation should be “nothing special,” done just for the sake of doing it, rather than for any reward in itself.
Sen-Gupta also makes some sweeping statements which I stumbled on, such as declaring that “In India most people are religious and express their devotion to God.” I struggled with such claims, as no citation or supporting evidence is given.
There were also some confusing mixing of ideologies which were not clear to me, “When we just sit, everything is kosher.” I appreciate that Sen-Gupta lives in Israel, but no explanation was offered to clarify this.
This is a helpful book to anyone interested in yoga and zazen, but read with a critical mind.
Michelle Teasdale practices ashtanga yoga and zazen, and can often be found eating mung beans and contemplating life, the universe and everything. Michelle blogs about yoga and Zen at Eight limbed life. Follow her on Twitter. Read her journalism at The Independent and First Eleven.
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