Reviews

FROM INSIDE OUT, A YOGA NOTEBOOK (BOOK III): BODY ENERGY by Victor van Kooten

Review by Phil Catalfo, The Yoga Journal

This third effort from yoga teacher Victor van Kooten is sure to be received rapturously by his and Angela Farmer’s devoted followers. Like its two predecessors, it is an idiosyncratic, uncompromising excursion into one man’s vision of the human being; its 130-plus pages use van Kooten’s own drawings to illustrate dynamic principles in our bodies, our psyches, and the universe. His gift for illustration and penchant for poetic language is evident on every page. As with his classes, if you swing with van Kooten’s colorful approach (and his imagery and terminology), you will feel as if you’ve found a kind of spiritual home, but if your interests or imagination are more staid, you will likely find yourself turning to a more conventional book.

INNER BODY FLOW with Angela Farmer

 Review by Richard Rosen, The Yoga Journal

Angela has tapped into the subtle essence of Hatha Yoga asana, sensuous rather than static, self-expressive rather than imitative. I’ve watched hundreds of yoga videos over the last 16 years, and to me, she’s one of the most inspiring teachers we have.

THE FEMININE UNFOLDING with Angela Farmer

 Review by Richard Rosen, The Yoga Journal

Not a formal instruction video, The Feminine Unfolding is Angela Farmer’s remarkable spiritual autobiography. The story itself unfolds in a series of short talks, interspersed with scenes from her public classes and beautifully choreographed asana performances (by Farmer and several of her students). She begins by describing her discontent with her years of traditional yoga training-its reliance on external authority, what she calls its “one-pointed striving,” and its rel­atively static, cookie-cutter postures. Sus­pecting that such an approach, which she characterizes as predomi­nantly “masculine,” is in essence incomplete, she sets out to discover what’s lacking. She finds it one day, when she wanders in­to an Indian temple and is suddenly surrounded by the carved figures of voluptuous Hindu goddesses. She realizes that these female icons, brimming with divine potency, represent yogis too, and their supple, flowing contours embody the natural counterpoint to the “fixed positions” of body-mind.

Farmer returns to her practice inspired by this epiphany, determined to express her own feminine identity, and commit­ted to translating the goddesses’ example into a new approach to practice. She “unfolds” the familiar still-as-a-statue shapes of the asanas in a spontaneous sen­sual “dance” with the feminine power (shaktí) that lives and breathes in each of us, and so affirms and validates, much as the Indian Tantrikas did 1,500 years ago, the inherent intelligence of the human body-mind. This frees us from external instructions and manipulations (verbal and otherwise).

Farmer acknowledges that there is a form to the asanas; but within those lim­its, she gives students more or less free rein to experiment, to find their own rela­tionship to a pose, to settle into a rendi­tion of a pose that is most expressive of who the individual student is. In doing so, she challenges the time-honored re­lationship of a teacher (guru) and her student (shishya). After all, if each of us is a locus of ultimate knowledge (jnana), then no external “authority” can possibly take final precedence over the prompting of our own inner “voice” (which Patanjali aptly named the “Lord,” ishvara). The teacher then becomes simply a partner in our practice, one who helps us learn to trust and love ourselves; and the responsibility for our salvation is shifted squarely onto our own shoulders, where it should be.

Farmer is a great joy to watch. She’s that rare personality (T.K.V. Desikachar and Lilias Folan are others who come to mind) who can reach right through the TV screen and touch your soul. I don’t usually get too excited over the videos I review, but this one is special, and it gets my highest recommendation.