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Yoga Beyond Belief: Insights to Awaken and Deepen Your Practice

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Yoga Beyond Belief offers a unique vision of contemporary yoga. It integrates scientific and practical approaches providing a much-needed integrative perspective that complements existing yoga books for all levels and styles of yoga students. Serving up a collection of valuable insights gleaned from a lifetime of exploration, practice, study, and teaching by one of America’s pioneering and leading teachers of yoga, the book assists readers in making sense of the many discordant claims and teaching techniques that currently exist in the yoga world, freeing readers to pursue their own individual paths of yoga and personal practice. This is an essential text and reference for all yoga practitioners.

The book first sets a context for an open-minded and evolutionary approach to yoga practice, and then explains the core principles of the many branches of yoga. A clear foundation is given for how the physical practices of yoga work to produce remarkable results of health and well being. The chapter Injury, Pain, and Healing shows how to prevent injuries and how to heal injuries should they occur. The reader is given a wealth of sophisticated of tools, insights, and anecdotes gleaned from a lifetime of practice and teaching to develop, hone, and tune his or her personal yoga approach. This book makes yoga come alive for the reader.

The book concludes by going beyond the physical aspects to the heart of yoga. It illuminates and gives insight into the discovery of non-dogmatic forms and evolutionary approaches to meditation and spirituality. It presents a clear argument showing the pitfalls of regimented systems and how to make everything in daily life part of yoga practice and spiritual development.

Ganga White gives us his unique and creative perspectives on a time-tested discipline for a healthy and vital life. Entertaining and thoroughly readable, this book offers a coherent explication of yoga, its philosophy and practice. White’s integrative views will inspire beginners and accomplished yogis to trust their inner wisdom and creatively reassess their practice. He is a great storyteller and gives us his personal and creative perspective, breathing fresh air into an ancient discipline. Yoga Beyond Belief offers an original, integrative approach to body, mind, and spirit that is practical, inspiring, and full of valuable insights to enliven and inform anyone’s yoga practice.

256 pages, Paperback

First published January 2, 2006

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Ganga White

4 books6 followers

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5 stars
186 (46%)
4 stars
145 (36%)
3 stars
61 (15%)
2 stars
7 (1%)
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 31 reviews
Profile Image for Silvia.
63 reviews7 followers
April 12, 2014
After a couple of years of very superficial and on-off relationship with yoga, I had finally 'peeled' a layer and begun to have a better, deeper understanding of the practice. I wanted to find some reads that placed yoga into context (historical, philosphical, etc) and at the same time made it relevant for non-religious people like me. Most stuff I found around was either too new age for my liking, or too dry and interested in presenting yoga simply as a fitness routine.

This book is EVERYTHING I was looking for. Ganga White introduces the yogic tradition clearly and succinctly, and at the same time he gives plenty of practical everyday advice that anyone practicing yoga, beginners and advanced students alike, should read. What truly struck me was the way he constantly used his own experiences and anecdotes and the humility with which he does so, which is what makes this book so accessible and valuable to me. With my ridiculously limited experience, I could identify a lot with many things he said, and I can safely state that it'll genuinely make my approach to yoga much deeper and more satisfying.

I couldn't recommend this book enough, whether you're already practicing, are thinking of doing so or are simply interested in finding out more about yoga.
Profile Image for Katie.
799 reviews17 followers
September 24, 2011
This is a great read for any yogi. White details the history of yoga, the different styles of yoga, and makes recommendations for poses (for people who have injuries, or for practitioners who are looking for modifications for their practice). Highly recommended for yogis or for those looking to learn more about modern yoga.
Profile Image for Sarah.
232 reviews
June 12, 2017
I really enjoyed this book. It discusses the philosophy of yoga as well as the important of asanas. I appreciate Ganga's perspective on yoga as healing, strengthening and incorporating it into our daily lives. It is humbling to see great yoga teachers be injured in their practice...because we are all human.
2 reviews1 follower
April 1, 2020
An insightful introduction into the world of yoga.

This was issued to us as a prerequisite for our 200 hr yoga teacher training. It formed a good base for our knowledge as we continued to dive deeper into some of the topics discussed in this book.
136 reviews2 followers
April 14, 2020
Very cool book about yoga practice that emphasizes your own experience and making your practice your own as well as tradition.
March 3, 2021
I read this book after 20 years of a personal yoga practice, so it's possible that I wasn't wow'd by this book because I had heard all its contents before. Still, I agreed with the thoughts within.
8 reviews
October 8, 2021
Ganga is a master and I appreciated the balanced perspective on the world of yoga as a whole. I've been practicing for a long time, but I still came away with a number of tangible take aways.
Profile Image for Kelli Reddy.
573 reviews1 follower
October 28, 2021
Finally finished! Book on yoga theory, philosophy and practice. Read for YTT and it was interesting, just a little dry at times.
Profile Image for Shelley Schanfield.
Author 2 books31 followers
September 19, 2016
A useful book that demystifies yoga and establishes it in a perspective that resonates with me, one that strips away "religiosity" and yet does not ignore the importance of spirituality for the true yogi. The epigraph by White sets the tone:

"What if our religion was each other/If our practice was our life/If prayer, our words/...What if meditation was our relationships/If the Teacher was life/If wisdom was self-knowledge..."

The summary of yoga's history necessarily leaves out a lot in such a short book, but there are plenty of sources that provide a more complete background. (An essential read for anyone interested in modern yoga is Yoga Body: The Origins of Modern Posture Practice, and I'm looking forward to Mallinson & Singleton's Roots of Yoga due out in early 2017, for a more complete history of philosophy and practice.)

But the book's goal is not to be a complete account of yoga's history, but to provide a guide on developing a practice that unites mind, body, and spirit while fully engaged in the world. White's background is in Hatha Yoga, but as a long-time Iyengar method practitioner, I found a lot of advice worth following. There are many tips on deepening asana practice, emphasizing its importance as a tool to deepen awareness of the mind-body-spirit connection, rather than as asana as a goal—that is, as an exercise in twisting the body into a pretzel.

Every practitioner can benefit from the chapter "Injury, Pain, and Healing," which encourages attention to the body's own signals when practicing. There is a fine line that marks the edge of our ability, and going beyond that line can lead to serious injury. Learning how to stay at that edge is a profound lesson.

In the chapter "Meditation is Life," White emphasizes that asking how to meditate misses the point. Although he gives a few useful techniques, he stays away from a dogmatic approach that prescribes exact methods. As he says, "Meditation cannot be taught, but meditation can be learned." It is in practicing awareness in all our actions, as much as we can at all times, that we learn how.

I highly recommend this book. I know I will return to it often.
Profile Image for Angela Sanders.
226 reviews2 followers
May 19, 2020
Synopsis: Yoga is a combination of many elements, but at times it becomes so Westernized that this doesn’t become apparent. So let’s break it down.

This book is right up the current spiritual alley in which I find myself. Ganga White pulls a lot from his own personal testimony of life as a yogi. He doesn’t come across dogmatic or supercilious, which can be hard to do when you’re writing a book on spirituality. It’s hard not to think of the truth you’ve found as the one and only truth.

It's a good blend of practicality and spirituality; the two don't always blend well. For instance, he provides breakdowns of the many different types of meditation available and how to try them. It’s not just about why meditation is important, or assuming that meditation comes naturally or simply. It’s meditation for the rest of us! Also, he likes to remind us how important it is to keep an open mind—in all things. That one school of yoga, or one way of looking at the soul, or even one belief system, is an explanation of the world we see (and that we don’t see) around us. There is a lot of wisdom to be gleaned, but don’t become too rigid. It’s a good philosophy for one’s yoga practice, but also one’s life.

A lot of territory is covered in this book. Nothing is delved into very deeply. I would highly recommend this book to any yogi or aspiring yogi. The Western world has kind of performed some cultural appropriation on yoga, and this book helps you get back to the roots. Overall, it was just really, really good.
Profile Image for Kathleen Maguire.
240 reviews11 followers
November 4, 2011
Ganga White is brilliant. He has studied yoga in every corner of the world with the most prominent teachers of this century, and then distilled the important elements of it (well-being, safety, inquiry, discernment) into his own teaching. Despite the depth and intensity of his experience, he is an incredibly accessible teacher, and I feel so utterly privileged to have experienced it firsthand. One of the more esoteric lectures he offered was to describe the parallels between the matter/energy continuum and the chakra system of the human body. "We are living in a sea of miracles, and that's the cosmic meditation . . . [afterthought] . . . man." But even without that bonus, this book offers some essential foundational (physical and philosophical) principles to guide your yoga practice, whether teacher or student.

It's possible that my 15 minutes of fame was actually more like 5 minutes, when I finally learned headstand from GANGA WHITE. "Katie, you're doing it. I'm barely holding you. It's your headstand. I'm barely holding you. You're doing it. I'm gone." And I did it!!! Ganga and his wife Tracey Rich are incredibly gifted teachers and they are both friggin' hilarious. Such a perfect combination of totally dreamy and completely down-to-earth.
6 reviews
August 9, 2016
This book contains tremendous insight regarding yoga practice in the 21st century. Although Yoga Beyond Belief is a look at the practice from a contemporary perspective, White includes history and explains origins. The scientific link to this spiritual practice was well written and profound. The writing is conversation and concise.

For some, there is a tendency to devalue new literature and interpretation on classical practices, but White makes an excellent point:

"Looking at music as an example may help us understand the evolutionary nature of spirituality. Music is not the same as it was when it was first developed. Early forms of music were very limited in range, pitch, and complexity, with simple rhythms and fewer possibilities of instrumentation. Over the centuries music has evolved into many genres and highly complex symphonies that communicate broad ranges of feeling, emotion, and meaning. Similarly, our understanding of spirituality needs to grow and evolve beyond the limits of tradition and ancient mappings."

While I've only recently sought to deepen my practice, I believe yogis at all levels of experience could walk away with from this book with new insights and a fresh perspective.
Profile Image for Beth.
941 reviews22 followers
July 23, 2009
Great book, and surprisingly easy to read and digest (not always true for spiritual or yoga books). Ganga approaches the subjects of yoga asana, meditation and spirituality with a down-to-earth yet inspiring voice, telling readers to sift through tradition, teachings and experience and find what rings true for yourself.

The very last paragraphs of the book are the most meaningful, to me: "Meditation and spirituality can be simple and natural, or made into complex forms of mental contortion and inner battle...what is one to do instead? Be quiet, sit, and breathe in a place of beauty...sit under the stars with a quiet mind and no goal. Be attentive to all things in life. Honor yourself. Laugh at yourself...carry joy and light on your path...we stand on the shoulders of the past seeing farther than ever before."
Profile Image for Jo.
775 reviews35 followers
August 13, 2016
Part of the reason I liked this book is because a lot of what White had to say matched up with a lot of things I've thought myself; maybe if he weren't saying things I already believed, I'd like the book less, but maybe it would have just make me think harder (which I think I've done enough of this semester, thankyouverymuch). Some of what White's saying sounds totally nuts, like, "Pain is our friend," but he's got a point about it. He does sound a little annoying-new-age-y sometimes, but other times he makes a lot of sense (to me). A lot of his proof comes from personal anecdotes and old yoga fables/myths, so that might rub some people the wrong way. This is one of those things I'd never have read on my own and may never read again, but, even though I was forced to read it for class, I won't call it a waste of my time or stupid busy work.
Profile Image for Jen Madsen.
104 reviews9 followers
March 24, 2009
What I appreciate about this book is that while it acknowledges the "jewels" of the past in the art and philosophy of yoga, it also allows for yoga to be relevant to modern, and perhaps rational, people and times. To use a yoga metaphor, it allows yoga to breathe. Rigidity is so antithetical to the practice of yoga that it should be an obvious error to insist on practicing yoga a particular way simply because that's the way it's been done for thousands of years.
Profile Image for Jeannette.
30 reviews
April 5, 2013
Ganga White has been a huge yogi since the 70s and founder of the White Lotus Foundation. This book focuses of principles of Bikram (the yoga I practice), and gives a wonderful insight on how yoga can be used for mind, body and soul. Its practical and inspiring and gives you greater insight on how to practice with awarness. I really loved this book. As its not a book on technique rather understanding the greater processes of flow.
Profile Image for Terry.
105 reviews
February 28, 2015
Excellent, i have had this on my shelf since it was published in 2007. Have started and stopped reading several times. Picked it up again as my personal yoga practice has developed into more than just exercise and absorbed it like a sponge...everything resonating with where I am in my life at this moment.
I started yoga with Total Flow dvds from Ganga White and Tracey Rich of the White Lotus Foundation years ago, and continue these practices and philosophies in my life today.
Profile Image for Jenny.
Author 10 books410 followers
November 2, 2010
Awesome book about making Yoga your own. The book is clear, easy to understand and encourages you to make yoga your own by listening to your body and using every day life as a way to practice integrating mind, body and spirit. Ganga White is an incredible teacher, and this book is a wonderful distillation of his wisdom.
Profile Image for Stella.
355 reviews77 followers
September 13, 2015
Love Tracy Rich and Ganga White Flow Series Yoga DVDs so when I realized there is a book by Ganga White i jumped at it. His non- dogmatic, non-prescriptive approach is a must read for all yoga lovers. I learned so much about both asana practice and spirituality of yoga and meditation. Also loved reading about the author's own journey.
Profile Image for Carrie Ridgeway.
918 reviews34 followers
October 31, 2012
Excellent book! I would love to own a copy of this book so I could refer back to it, and re-read it every year of so. There was so much insight and good sense in this book. Highly recommend it to anyone seeking to learn more about yoga to enrich their practice.
232 reviews3 followers
February 13, 2013
Very practical approach to yoga with chapters on different kinds of yoga practices, healing injuries, meditation and spirituality. I expect that I will refer to this book as I deepen my yoga practice.
1 review2 followers
November 11, 2013
I love how comprehensive this book is on yoga principles and spirituality. Ganga takes a non-dogmatic approach -- I learned quite a bit reading this book. As I seek a path and a teacher, I've been reassured that everyone's path is unique. Namaste!
14 reviews
February 7, 2008
Studied with him at White Lotus yoga teacher training in Santa Barbara. A great book about yoga practice and philosophy.
45 reviews
February 1, 2009
this book explains the history and philosophy of yga and provides insights into the practise so that you can maximize and enliven your experience.
Profile Image for Janie.
542 reviews12 followers
January 23, 2009
A lot about how authority can weaken, damage, and hurt one's yoga practice. Four stars because I took some good quotes from it that illustrate principles worth a lil' rumination.
Profile Image for Carolyn.
92 reviews
October 23, 2011
I'm re-reading this book and just loving it. I think White is very grounded and full of wisdom!
Profile Image for K.
119 reviews6 followers
May 1, 2015
Third time reading this book and I always find something new. If you are interested in the spiritual aspect of yoga, then this is a gem that will not disappoint.

December 1, 2015
A great read, it filled my head and heart with answers to questions I already had, however I am more thankfully for the further questions I will ponder. But first I will sit,in lotus pose and rest.
Profile Image for Kaye.
1,606 reviews43 followers
August 16, 2016
Absolutely incredible, full of gems to dog-ear throughout. This is simply full of practical and spiritual advice, while avoiding any hard line dogma.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 31 reviews

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