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How Yoga Works

4.19  ·  Rating details ·  1,832 ratings  ·  196 reviews
The Yoga Sutra is the great motherbook of all the yoga works ever written; it was composed by the Indian master Patanjali some 2,000 years ago. The Sanskrit text is written in 210 brief, cryptic verses whose meaning has long ago sunk into darkness; the many, confusing modern attempts to explain them bear little resemblance to each other, which is just a sign of how difficu ...more
Paperback, 406 pages
Published September 1st 2005 by Diamond Cutter Press (first published January 9th 2004)
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 ·  1,832 ratings  ·  196 reviews

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Jan 21, 2011 rated it it was ok
Really wanted to like this book. Yoga teachers who I respect highly recommended it. I don't object to the content but rather to the vehicle--a dramatic tale ostensibly set in an ancient Indian kingdom.

First, I have a low tolerance for historical inaccuracy in fiction. Details of language, culture, dress, science and technology--did anybody edit the text for that? For example, the story, set in the 11th or 12th century, BCE, contains casual dialogue about oxygen and the respiratory system--none o
I agree with many reviewers that the vehicle used to teach the essence of yoga is rather weak. The credibility of the characters, setting and language are quite incredulous for a tale set in 1000AD, and the writing style for a novel-like book is rather amateurish and long-winded.

But if you set aside the weaknesses of the story-telling, which is merely a vehicle used to teach yogic philosophy, then you would find that there are gems for personal growth. This book sets out to teach core points of
May 08, 2013 rated it it was amazing
It will probably resonate more for yogis, but everybody should read this--it's full of wonderfully quotable bits to sink your thoughts into. Both during and after reading it, I find myself thinking of it throughout my day. There are some small parts I'm still not sure I agree with on a philosophical level (more specifically, existential and ethical)--but even those points of contention are worthwhile ideas for me to contemplate.

Apparently (based on others' reviews), there are some concerns about
Karen Fiedler
Jan 10, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book. It puts the philosophy of yoga into a comprehensible, engaging, and enjoyable story. I have read it 3 times to date.
Jul 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing
If your eyes slip through this lines and you've wondered/asked many times about yoga I urge you to make room for this reading, no matter how busy you may be. Perhaps this simple novel will enrich you same way it did to me.

"Hey yoga teacher, have you read 'how yoga works'?" - that was how I got introduced to this sacred book.

At the time my only possible answer was "no, I haven't" and what a delight to have hands to carry this book, eyes (behind glasses) allowing me to read and an intellect to p
Victoria Klein
Mar 26, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I’ve been pondering the best way to start this particular book review, but I can think of no way other than: this is one of the best books I’ve read in my entire 29-year-long life. Yeah, it’s that good. That may sound like a lot to live up to (+ it certainly is!), but this book has permanently changed the way that I look at Yoga.

As a long-time student, recent graduate of a 200-Hour Teacher Training Program, + almost graduate of a 500-Hour Teacher Training Program, it’s no secret to me that yoga
Mike S
May 22, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: metaphysics
This is a great book for people who are interested in yoga but don't know much about it. And I don't mean just the outer practice of poses and stretches, the book goes into some of the inner practice and how powerful they can be when done along with the outer practices, enhancing their effects. It does this within the setting of a heart-warming story, and frequently quotes and explains some of the Yoga Sutras by Patanjali. I looked forward to reading this book every day until it was finished, th ...more
Barbara Gunter
Jul 01, 2013 rated it it was amazing
The other reviews are correct when they say that there are historical inaccuracies, and that the story is amateurish, but I feel they are missing the point. It's a lovely book, which does a fantastic job of demonstrating the principles of yoga in the style of Sophie's World. It helped to crystallise the reading I had done on the subject of meditation and it made me very happy just reading it. This is one of those books that I will return to again & again.

I would recommend that everyone read this
Kyarra Keele
Aug 28, 2015 rated it liked it
The concept of the book is beautiful and I did learn a lot from it. I gave it 3 stars because I feel that it was drawn out too much. It became difficult to keep reading about 3/4 of the way through. I do appreciate the book but I would not exactly go out of my way to recommend it.
Maiga Milbourne
Sep 14, 2011 rated it liked it
Roach and McNally again seek to explain Buddhist spiritual principles, this time to an audience interested in the practice of yoga. They develop a sort of fable as a vehicle. Thousands of years ago in a small border town between India and Tibet, an 18 year old Tibetan woman who has studied yoga with a master, passes with her dog. She's incarcerated and begins transforming the jail and its inhabitants through her teaching of yoga. I just kept thinking a historian would cringe repeatedly at the si ...more
Junky's  Wife
Apr 06, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: yoga
This book inspired me to start my own karma journal. I have really been surprised by how influential it has been on my behavior and my life in general. Even if you aren't interested in yoga (like, in the sense that you don't go stand on one leg and pretend to be a tree), the book is worth reading. It's as much a spiritual explication of the Yoga Sutras as it is a cool novel. There's actually much less stuff about the postures than you might expect. Don't let the title mislead's no step- ...more
Jennifer Hrabota
Very mediocre as a story, but a nice explanation of yoga philosophy. The historical inaccuracies in the characters' style of speech and interactions was a little hard to overlook, however the overall message delivered was a good one. I wouldn't recommend it as the only book on yoga for someone to read, but some of the analogies and presentations of concepts did make certain things more clear as well as stick in my mind. I love the knocking on the pipes analogy. :)

3stars may be a little generous,
Mar 06, 2017 marked it as abandoned
I just can't with this writing style. ...more
Harrison Burchett
Jun 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A truly amazing book if you appreciate perspective.
Britt Skrabanek
Jan 22, 2013 rated it it was amazing
How Yoga Works was on our recommended book list when I did my Yoga teacher training , as we didn't have room in our jam-packed schedule to make it a required read.

It took me a while to come around to it, thinking in some way that it wasn't as important as the other books I read during my training. I was pleasantly surprised.

I can absolutely see how this book would not be for anyone, especially if you prefer Yoga learnings straight up. But for a fiction lover, I adored the storyline surrounding e
Marla B
Feb 27, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I thoroughly enjoyed this read. In fact, I savored the last couple chapters for the continuously evocative wisdom each page shared. While at times the story moved slowly, the momentum of the story matched the messages within. This book reaffirms the notion that every human being has a purpose, a unique gift, to use in their life to benefit themselves and the lives of others, that they might not necessarily realize they have until some time along their journey, they are called upon to use their g ...more
Jul 12, 2017 rated it liked it
I only give this three stars because I wish the craft of the writing was higher caliber. The way the author simplifies the lessons of the Sutras and submerges them in a story illustrating their meaning is done quite well but the dialogue and depth of characters is lacking. I started the book thinking the author may take the reader through all the Sutras and although he doesn't, the ones he focuses on are laid into the text beautifully and he often revisits the same Sutra from a different angle. ...more
May 13, 2013 rated it really liked it
This book recasts the yoga sutra into a novel. In that way, the reader gets to see how yoga practice/philosophy might be enacted, and this is, I found, a useful pedagogy. The author is no literary stylist. If beautiful writing is important to you, you may be distracted by the limitations of this material. However, I learned a lot, and it helped me better understand yoga precepts in terms of a practical spirituality. I borrowed the book from a friend and will now probably purchase my own copy, so ...more
J. M.
Jul 30, 2020 rated it it was ok
More parable than literature. How Yoga Works is a demonstration of the power of the Yoga Sutras to heal and transform, using an unbound historical setting and improbable circumstances for illustration. Using simple terms such as “channels” for nadis and “choke points” for chakras, the story brings ancient teachings to life in moments of chilling insight, although much of the writing in between those moments is filled with halting dialogue and cartoonish episodes. Regardless, the novel accomplish ...more
Aug 10, 2020 rated it really liked it
I can't say this is a work of impressive writing or narrative, but it explains and produces concepts in an incredibly engaging and digestible way. Fantastic read, insightful ideas, wonderful all around. ...more
Jan 05, 2009 rated it it was amazing
good, easy read, makes deeper teachings accessible through story
Julie Botterill
Mar 18, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Awesome. Totally got me thinking of everything, including myself, with a different perspective - powerful!
sunshine alexis stein
May 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing
One of my most favorite books to read at least once a year.
Aug 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
If you have ever read (or looked at) the Yoga Sutra, you will appreciate this book's mission to make it more accessible. Of course the story is a bit silly, and the anachronisms are readily apparent at the outset (and with no author attempt to avoid them), but this is not a book written by MFAs for literary purposes; it is written by a Geshe and a Lama and they are both highly knowledgeable and educated in Buddhism, Yoga Philosophy and Sanskrit. The story they use to "translate" or explain the Y ...more
Alex Boon
Sep 23, 2017 rated it liked it
Some great lessons in here and a few really good metaphors. The story is average at best and hugely historically inaccurate as others have noted. This can be forgiven in my opinion because the book is not intended to be a historical novel and the ideas needed to be conveyed in a way that modern readers will grasp. However, I can't forgive the short section on abortion and it's apparent violation of ahimsa in the author's opinion. This idea that an embryo is a person on conception and so must be ...more
Silvia Sampere
Sep 26, 2017 rated it liked it
A fiction piece whose aim is to explain the main yoga sutras through the teachings of a young girl, a prisoner in a remote village in India, to the Captain of the prison.

I have practiced yoga for a few years now and read this book with the purpose of understanding the tradition and "theory" behind what I practice in class. It is a dense book, despite being in novel-format, as it is filled with analysis, thorough explanations and applications of the yoga sutras. The storyline is not too deep or
Victoria Thompson
May 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: winter-18-19
For the yoga book club, they decided to start with this one and i was freaking out. Even though i did not chose it for my report during our training, it was still on my list to read. This is not what you think it is from the title. It is an actual story that follows a young tibetan girl in her time in traveling through India. Of course, this novel will probably resonate with yogis the most but the storyline is one that many would love. Roach is able to take the thought, ideas, and the inner prac ...more
Manne Mo
Jan 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
You don't have to be a yoga practitioner to love or benefit from this book. Such a beautiful and completely life-changing message, which gets to the heart of yoga's power, instantly shatters the illusion of fake capitalist insta-replicas, and genuinely made and makes me strive each day to be a more conscious person and sow better "seeds". In terms of literary merit, there isn't much. The characters are joyfully unbelievable, and dialogue is ridiculous sometimes, the way Miss Friday and the Capta ...more
Svetlana Gutsenko
Nov 19, 2018 rated it it was ok
I've been attending yoga studio for about 4 years.. but have never heard of actual yoga ideas. I'm glad I read the book, since it gave me some basic knowledge what the yoga is all about. But these ideas are ancient and are developed by yoga Gurus. So, I don't give a stars for them to neither author nor the book.
Present these ancient yoga ideas in a fascinating way is the task for an author, and (on my opinion) he failed. The narrative style and the story in which the author tells gurus teaching
CJ Katz
Mar 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: yoga
If you are looking to deepen your yoga practice and make it far more than just doing the poses, this book will set you on your way to doing just that. If you are looking for a book with poses and how-tos...this is not it. 'How Yoga Works' is taught through a deeply enlightening story. I loved every word, underlined countless and passages and began incorporating Miss Friday's suggestions immediately. And the effects were and continue to be profound. Definitely a must-read if you want to really di ...more
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Publishes as Geshe Michael Roach ('Geshe' is a Tibetan Buddhist academic degree for monks and nuns). ...more

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