asana 2.0: visvamitrasana, volume 1 of the sage series (book review)

Nikki Vilella demonstrates the full expression of Visvamitrasana (screengrab from e-book

Nikki Vilella demonstrates the full expression of Visvamitrasana (screengrab from e-book)

For a supposedly ancient practice, there is no shortage of digital yoga resources to help a person deepen, advance or diversify their practice: YouTube videos, webinars, smartphone apps, video streaming, podcasts and much more.

But a new “book” has taken digitalized yoga to the next level. Visvamitrasana: Volume 1 of the Sage Series is more than an e-book – it’s an interactive digital experience, combining text, audio, video and links for an intuitive and engaging experience.

The project presents an opportunity to delve deeper into the challenging pose Visvamitrasana, which is an arm balance, side stretch and hip opener. As teacher Nikki Vilella writes in her introduction, the pose demands “hamstring flexibility, arm strength and the ability to twist and lengthen the side body.”

ipad-VisvaNew York City-based Vilella (who teaches at Kula Yoga Project Williamsburg) guides the listener through preparatory poses, Visvamitrasana variations and the pinnacle pose itself. Structured in five sections, including an introduction, audio class (with 90, 45 and 60 minute options), a written class sequence, detailed Visvamitrasana technique and variations, the book can be read in any order. The publication also includes two essays on the intellectual and mythical aspects of the posture and the legend the sage Visvamitra, written by yoga teacher and author Emily Stone. An appendix with an audio Sanskrit pronunciation guide by Leslie Freyberg rounds out the whole package.

In her final essay, Stone addresses why one would even commit their time to mastering a challenging asana, and how to bridge the physical effort with the mythology of the sage for whom the pose was named.  “The application of the stories behind the postures to the physicality of the postures connects us cosmically to something beyond our quotidian selves by tapping into the sage presence and soul purpose of our beautiful (and beautifully flawed) eternal Self,” writes Emily Stone

Nothing can replicate the experience of studying with a live teacher. But if you’re at a place in your practice where you’d like to take on a challenge and do so in a safe and supported way, outside of the pressure of the studio, this e-book is a worthwhile investment. The variety of mediums (visual guides, audio and text) accommodates different learning styles and the self-directed structure of the book allows you to pause and repeat as you see fit.

As the title of the publication indicates, this is the first volume in a series of experiential digital books that focus on the “sage poses” such as Astavakrasana, Koundinyasana and Marichiasana. Thanks to the good people at Inflextion for their innovative spirit and willingness to make challenging poses accessible to the regular practitioner.

The e-book is available for $10 for iTunes Books, Amazon Kindle, Nook, Kobo, or as an interactive PDF for any computer.