The Yogini from Manila

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Review: Darren Rhodes’ Yoga Resource Practice Manual ebook

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One great thing about owning a tablet or a smartphone is the fact that there is a plethora of yoga apps available. I’ve got over a dozen such apps on my ipad and I have quite a few on my Android smartphone. On my Kindle app, I also have quite a few yoga ebooks. Both the apps and the ebooks are great resources for when you can’t make it to a class or when traveling.

But if you need some kind of yoga bible, the Yoga Resource Practice Manual of Darren Rhodes is something to seriously consider.

Book cover

The version of the ebook I reviewed was for the ipad (using the Inkling app) so if you get the Android or web version, there may be some slight format differences.

About Darren Rhodes

Darren Rhodes (photo taken from his teacher profile on www.yogaglo.com)

I actually spent time reading the introduction to know a little bit more about Darren Rhodes. Interestingly, he really grew up on yoga with his parents being his first yoga ‘teachers’ (they never really taught him but led by example through their daily yoga practice). He studied under master hatha yoga teachers but eventually developed his own yoga style he calls Yogahour — a flow-style practice that requires teachers to bring students in and out of poses “safely and succinctly”. As you will see, his ebook’s format clearly reflects these principles. Darren Rhodes was named by Yoga Journal as one of the “21 Talented Young Teachers Shaping the Future of Yoga”. Not only is he known in the yoga community for being able to beautifully execute master poses but he has actually dedicated himself to making yoga affordable and accessible. I was surprised to find many of his free videos online  which guide expertly through short sequences or mastering a pose.

What’s Inside the Ebook

As soon as you open up the ebook, you are presented with thumbnail categories of the asanas on the lefthand side. From top to bottom, you can choose to read all about the book and its introduction or jump straight away into any of the general categories: Standing, Forward Folds, Backbends, Twists, Arm Balances, Inversions, Seated, Prone, Supine and Core. A collection of selected videos are included in a video library at the bottom.

Each category begins with an introduction that includes alignment cues as well as a visual index which shows all the poses in that category in thumbnail format. It’s so easy to jump to the description of any pose from those thumbnails. Another way is to click on the Sanskrit name for the pose as listed under a category.

Alignment cues are helpful for asanas under each category.

 

Clickable visual index of poses under a category

 

Unlike many ebooks which look exactly like its print version in digital form, the Yoga Resource Practice Manual takes advantage of multimedia and gesture features of the ipad and smartphones. After choosing a category (for ex. Standing), a swipe to the left slides in another panel that lists all Standing poses. Click on one pose and a third panel slides in showing the pose’s page.

Another great feature I loved is the audible Sanskrit pronunciations. Beside each Sanskrit name is a text bubble. Clicking it opens up a tiny window. Click the arrow inside the window and hear how the pose is pronounced in Sanskrit.

 

Each pose is beautifully executed and portrayed. Darren Rhodes has this ability to make each pose look so easy when in fact a lot of them are pretty advanced. But that is why his principles of shape, safety and refinement come into play. Every pose’s page has 3 sections for each of these principles. In the Shape section, there are brief, sequential descriptions of how to get into the pose. In the Safety section are reminders on what to do to stay safe while in the pose. And in the Refinement section, you find modifications that challenge the more advanced practitioners. Hyperlinks to other poses (clickable blue text) are thoughtfully added, where appropriate, so that the reader can “connect the dots” and see how each pose can segue into another.

 

I liked the fact that in several of these sections, Darren Rhodes adds his own insights to break away from a purely instructional type of ebook. Some of his insights are drawn from his personal experiences. Here’s a sample:
“When I was growing up, my dad was fond of saying, “Hard work ain’t easy.” Well, the same goes here: Hatha work ain’t easy! And yet it can look easy when looking at these photographs. What you cannot see in these photographs is the effort it took to get into them….During the photoshoot for utkatasana, I fell over 15 to 20 times before I was able to hold the form and balance. Once in awhile, practice a pose like utkatasana as if it is game day: Do it again and again and go for the full expression of the pose.”
Such insights are indeed comforting for the beginner as well as for the seasoned yogi. I personally felt at ease reading this, knowing that many teachers considered masters and who have been extensively trained in yoga, can still admit to these kinds of challenges.
Way down at the bottom of the ebook is one of my favorite features — the video library — a selection of videos showing Darren Rhodes and Ellen, a colleague.

That said, I do have a few items on my wish list when the ebook goes through a second revision.

First, it can stand a better organization and index. Since the ebook can be read by beginners, listing poses only in their Sanskrit names can be utterly confusing for those who have not memorized them. A Search feature on the ipad allows one to search for the English name but a dropdown menu of search results is confusingly in Sanskrit too. A general alphabetical index, with options to list either in Sanskrit or under the English names, makes it easier for novices to find poses.

Second, I would have wanted to see, within a pose’s page, an indication of difficulty level (beginner, intermediate or advanced), some medical benefits and contraindications of each pose specifically for those with injuries or medical conditions, and modification recommendations that make a pose either easier or more challenging.

Third, the multimedia feature of an ebook can be further stretched by replacing the still pictures on each pose page with short videos showing exactly how to get in and out of the pose. This would probably expand the file size of the ebook, a technical consideration I don’t have the expertise to comment on, but it would really be interesting to see Darren execute each pose in motion.

Fourth, I would love to see more of Darren Rhodes’ videos in the ebook.

Overall, the Yoga Resource Practice Manual is an ebook like none I have ever come across to date. The 360 poses and over 400 photos in this collection are beautiful executions and the instructions are well thought out. I actually enjoyed poring over poses that I found challenging and tried to find tips to prepare for them. This ebook is great whether you are just starting your journey with yoga or whether you have been teaching it or practicing yoga for some time now. It should be part of a serious yoga practitioner’s collection of books and apps.

Check out www.yogaresourcebook.com for more information. The Yoga Resource Practice Manual is now available on Amazon (for Kindle and Kindle Fire), on the iTunes store (for the iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch), and on inkling (for all computers and laptops).

Important for Philippine-based yogis/yoginis: The ebook is not yet available through iTunes in the Philippine store. But if you wish to buy, it’s available on Amazon. Click the link below.

Pick Your Yoga Practice: Exploring and Understanding Different Styles of Yoga

(Note: I received a free version of this ebook in order to write this review and was given complete freedom on what to write. Therefore, all comments on this post arise from my very own experience while using the ebook.)

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One Comment

  1. Thanks for the awesome, thorough review!

Thanks for reading! I'd love to know what you think.

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