The No Om Zone by Kimberly Fowler Book Review

The No Om Zone by Kimberly Fowler
The No Om Zone by Kimberly Fowler. Courtesy of Amazon

Kimberly Fowler is a well-known Los Angeles-based yoga teacher. She is the founder of the Yoga and Spinning (YAS) Fitness Centers in LA and Portland and has made several yoga workout DVDs, including Yoga for Athletes. Her mission, as the book's subtitle makes plain, is to make yoga accessible to those who are uncomfortable with chanting, granola, and Sanskrit.

First, Let's Talk About the Yoga

Fowler's book takes an anatomical approach, with each chapter focused on a specific area of the body. Beginning with the head and moving down, she covers the neck, shoulders, upper and lower back, arms, hands, abs, hips, legs, knees, and feet. The nice thing about this organization is that it allows you to easily focus on an area of the body that may be troubling you or that you want to work on. Fowler does a really good job of breaking down each area of the body, including providing anatomical drawings and explaining common injuries.

She also offers ample modifications for every pose. Each chapter ends with a short workout series, which makes for a handy way to string together a home practice session. Unfortunately, some of the models featured in the photographs do not illustrate great alignment, which is the key to experiencing the physical benefits of each pose and avoiding injury. While it's a nice idea to use "regular" (that is, not super bendy pretzel types) people as models, it is still important that the poses be shown as correctly as possible.

Now, Let's Talk About the Gimmick

With so many yoga books on the market, how can you make yourself stand out from the pack? Well, as every marketing whiz and Broadway aficionado knows, you gotta get a gimmick. In the case of Fowler, it's her "No Chanting, No Granola, No Sanskrit" stance. As I noted when I reviewed her Yoga for Athletes DVD a few years ago, this sloganeering feels rather out of date (see the advent of power yoga in the early 1990s). Walk into any health club or gym and it's not hard to find yoga being taught as exercise, with nary a chant, breakfast cereal, or eka pada rajakaotasana in sight. At a yoga studio, you might be encouraged to say an om or three at the end of class, but again, it's not hard to find a teacher who plays Radiohead instead of Krishna Das. There is so much secular yoga available today that to make a big deal over it seems much ado about nothing.

And One More Thing

One point I feel I must take issue with is the following advice, included in Fowler's conclusion: "If you happen to go to a class where the instructor is talking Sanskrit and chanting, playing a gong, etc., and this makes you feel uncomfortable, get up and leave." Now, in my book, this is just plain rude. We're not talking about walking out of a movie. There is another human, a yoga teacher, on the receiving end of your actions. A gong makes you uncomfortable enough to disrespect that person?

My advice is the exact opposite: you can make it through that hour and a half. It might not be your thing, you may never go back. That's fine, but let's all try to be nice to one another, and maybe even to open ourselves to experiences that broaden our preconceived notions of what we do and don't like. That's yoga. Otherwise, let's just call it stretching.

Disclosure: A review copy was provided by the publisher.

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