Verdict: An intelligent and compelling text but not an “easy read.”
Sandra Zuidema has written the definitive yoga textbook. She is keen to reunite all the many interrelated and intrinsic aspects of the ancient practice of yoga that have been lost as yoga has become westernized. She works hard to articulate the qualities of spirituality and mysticism about which modern society has become so sceptical. Yoga’s epic history, its medical relevance, its effects on the individual, and its potential for good in the universe are purposefully documented. In addition, there is a fascinating distillation of the primary elements of the many different schools of yoga philosophy.
I can’t pretend it is a book that quickly stole my heart. Take the title: the autocorrect function in my brain resolutely refuses to accept this use of the verb “affect”—even having read Zuidema’s justification. It is a buggy, unnecessary barrier: we shouldn’t be questioning the author’s grasp of grammar before we even open the book. I was still a little chilly reading the autobiographical content. Zuidema has clearly been through the mill in her personal life, but her style of recounting is distant and dignified; there wasn’t much emotional texture to engage with. Next came a really tough chapter about scientific research. It read like a dense, academic paper, full of referencing. I stuck with it because its inclusion was logical: pre-empting the cynic who needs scientific proof of the benefits of traditional yoga. It was much to ask so early in the book, but I was primed by the time I emerged from these early chapters and fully engaged as the next ones unfolded, presenting me with absolutely everything I could ever want to know about yoga. This book is impressive and really very thorough.
I am still uncertain about the target audience. The book is richly informative and predominantly theoretical; it would be a useful reference for students of exercise psychology. However, a companion workbook (Yoga Affect: A Guided Journal) is available to help put the theory into practice. Individuals seeking a more authentic yoga experience are probably the intended readers, but don’t underestimate the high reading level required to access Zuidema’s ideas.
I had just started to write this review when a high-end, sports apparel advertisement popped up on my screen: “Get all those crisp-morning, pumpkin spice vibes in our essential yoga gear.” If this kind of marketing floats your yoga-boat, I suspect the YOGA AFFECT: A PRIMER FOR A BEAUTIFUL LIFE is not going to be the book for you.
~Jackie Spink for IndieReader