I had heard that How Yoga Works teaches about the deeper philosophies of yoga, and in particular, The Yoga Sutras—perhaps the main “Bible” of yoga and the first codified yogic text we know of, composed by the Indian master Patanjali some 2,000 years ago. This hallowed text, made up of 210 brief, Sanskrit verses, can be quite cryptic to the average Western eye, and modern translations can vary so widely that many fail to resemble one another.
When I first opened this book and began reading, however, I was delighted to find that it was a story, a fictional tale. I realized in the first few pages that this book wouldn’t feel like a book of teachings in the standard sense at all. It’s written in the voice of a young woman voyaging through India on foot, back to her homeland of Tibet, who becomes imprisoned in the very first chapter. It drew me in right away, and was worth the read if only for its narrative value.
Beyond that, Roach has given us a fresh, living depiction of The Yoga Sutras. The more digestible novel format holds within it the wisdom that every human being has unique value, and that our gifts will be called upon at unknown times, giving us the opportunity to benefit not only ourselves but the world. The book explains, to some degree, how the inner practices and ethical precepts are the true foundations of Yoga, and how powerful the postures and breath practices can be only once we braid them all together.
Since it’s publication in 2004, How Yoga Works has been widely recommended as reading for yoga teacher training courses throughout the world, and acclaimed as a must-read for students of yoga who want to know what The Yoga Sutras are really trying to say. I view it as a guide for adult spiritual inspiration, but am, at the same time, curious to see if it can go over as a riveting bedtime story for my six and nine year old sons–once we’ve finished their current obsession of the Harry Potter series.
Geshe Michael Roach is a graduate of Princeton University and the first westerner in the 600-year history of Sera Mey Tibetan Monastery to be awarded the degree of “Geshe,” or Master of Buddhism. He is known for his business bestseller, The Diamond Cutter: The Buddha on Managing Your Business & Your Life.