The Secret Power of Yoga Book Review
by Danielle Fowler
Devi, Nischala Joy. The Secret Power of Yoga: A Women’s Guide to the Heart and Spirit of the Yoga Sutras. New York, Three Rivers Press, Random House, Inc., 2007.
An innovative, readable and insightful commentary of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra. Written from a feminine, heart-centered perspective this book is revolutionary, if not controversial. Devi has broken the mold of traditional, scholarly approaches of understanding the Yoga Sutras and has invited the novice into the world of Yogic philosophy. Anyone can read, understand and integrate the philosophical concepts presented in this book. Devi attempts and succeeds at recreating the language to be more female friendly. She writes in her introduction, “What many of us find lacking in the Yoga Sutras lies in their translation, written by and for male scholars from a left-brained, analytical perspective, often obliterating the wisdom they attempt to convey.”
Devi provides a commentary, “that emanates from the heart – an intuitive, feminine approach. Instead of translating the ancient Sanskrit to modern English, The Secret Power of Yoga reforms a variety of previous translations and interprets them in a new light, using “English of the Heart” rather than the more conventional offerings that rely on “English of the Mind.” Additionally, Devi does an excellent job of transforming all the negative language (ie. non-attachment, non-harming, non-stealing, etc.) into positive or neutral language.
Stories and quotes are woven into the tapestry of this translation highlighting the meaning of the particular Sutra where appropriate. The book is arranged into chapters providing a structure that groups sutras together into the “familiar venerable paths Bhakti (Devotion) Yoga, Karma (Service) Yoga, Jnana (Wisdom) Yoga, Hatha (Physical) Yoga, and other categories.” At the end of each chapter, Devi lists a variety of techniques for encouraging the reader to bring the Yoga Sutras into daily life. For the last chapter, a convenient list of the sutras without commentary is written for the practitioner to read and integrate them as an unbroken thread of insight and wisdom. Not just for women, this commentary will be celebrated and cherished for many years to come. Jai Ma.