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by Leah Cullis
Human Kinetics, 2018
Review by Beth T. Cholette, Ph.D. on Dec 25th 2018
Author Leah Cullis is a power yoga instructor who has worked and trained at the Baptiste Institute with founder Baron Baptiste. She is also a featured teacher with the online site DoYouYoga.com in addition to being a holistic health coach. In her first book, Power Yoga: Strength, Sweat, and Spirit, Cullis presents a fitness-based yoga practice designed as a 28-day plan. Cullis describes power yoga as a modernized, American version of ashtanga yoga, with both being vigorous vinyasa (flow) methods.
Cullis places a major emphasis is on the physical nature of the practice. In the opening chapters, she takes a slightly more expansive approach, addressing adjunct components such as intention-setting, meditation, breath, and yoga philosophy, but by Chapter 4, her focus shifts almost exclusively to physical postures. Each subsequent chapter is organized around a specific theme: Warm-Up Poses and Sequences, Power Poses and Sequences, Peak Poses and Sequences, Cool-Down Poses and Sequences, Core Strength Poses and Sequences, Upper-Body Strength Sequences, and Lower-Body Strength Sequences. The pose depictions are beautifully laid out. Every posture gets a full-page treatment that incorporates a clear color photograph—sometimes with a supplemental photo to show modifications—plus specific details about the pose (areas targeted, benefits), alignment instructions, and modifications/adaptations. The descriptions are clear and the photo illustrations helpful. For the sequencing information, the individual sequences are named and the poses are numbered. The photos featured are smaller (2-8 per page), but there are page numbers referring the reader back to the full pose narrative. Cullis is thorough in providing sequence options. She presents many optional variations (e.g., different arm positions) as well as series of varying lengths.
The final few chapters address more specialized areas. Chapter 11, "Yoga Within Your Other Workouts," discusses power yoga as an enhancement to sports performance, including preventing injury. There are sequences specific to running, CrossFit, cycling, and team sports. The final chapter is "Your Power Yoga Plan." This is where Cullis concentrates specifically on the implementation of a 28-day program. She starts Week 1, Foundation, with a 20-minute practice sequence, gradually adding time to the subsequent weeks (Focus, Fire, and Flow) for a complete 60-minute program. Finally, Cullis provides guidelines for customizing a program of 20-, 30-, 45-, or 60-minutes in length.
Overall, this book is well-designed and nicely formatted. It delivers an excellent reference manual for those desiring to use yoga as a workout routine. Yet I was left with some questions about the appropriate audience for this work. In her introduction, Cullis offers a section on "How to Use This Book." This overview suggests that the book is mainly geared to practitioners, as it explains how to utilize the varying sequences to progress in a personal practice. Consistent with this, the early chapters include offset segments with relevant tips, with titles including "Tips to Start Your Practice," "The Importance of Breath," and "The Importance of Staying Hydrated." More puzzling are the series of segments that provide a "Teaching Tip." These sidebars did contain useful material, such as ideas for incorporating breath, sequencing/theme suggestions, and a class outline. Yet I also found the information incongruent with the overall structure of this volume.
For the right audience, this is a worthwhile offering and a useful addition to a home yoga library.
© 2018 Beth Cholette
Beth Cholette, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist who provides psychotherapy to college students.