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Find your niche

January 08, 2007|Jeannine Stein

The unflagging popularity of yoga is understandable -- the practice offers a remarkable physical challenge and mental release, and its many forms and niches appeal to a broad range of people. The latest crop of yoga books and DVDs reflects this diversity, from instruction on stress reduction to glossy photographs featuring beautiful people striking challenging poses.

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Set it on the coffee table

"Contact: The Yoga of Relationship": Coffee table tomes about yoga are rare (most books are more functional than attractive), but this slick, heavy book on partner yoga is meant to be seen. Written by Tara Lynda Guber (longtime yoga practitioner, founder of a yoga education program and wife of producer Peter Guber), it features lush black-and-white photos by photographer Norman Seeff, plus some general instruction.

Guber's yoga and Hollywood connections evidently came in handy; featured in the enormous photos are yoga stars Rod Stryker, Shiva Rea and Seane Corn, and celebs Lisa Rinna, Harry Hamlin, Daphne Zuniga and Linda Gray. They come together in elegant, often complex poses such as shooting star, flying throne and flying bug on a bridge.

The good: Even if you've never attempted so much as a simple sun salutation, seeing these gravity-defying poses may spawn a sudden need for a yoga mat and stretchy clothes. Partner yoga, a niche of the increasingly popular practice of yoga, isn't for everyone, but this book makes a strong case for it. "Unlike other forms of yoga practice," Guber writes, "the objective in Contact Yoga is ... about crossing barriers and boundaries, bold exploration, trial and error, exciting creativity, spontaneity, and invention." In its best form, she argues, it goes beyond the physical challenge to teach about trust, commitment, love and communication.

The bad: Those new to the world of yoga shouldn't pick this up expecting to learn how to partner by the time they reach the last page. The book does include guidelines for practice, plus some step-by-step illustrative photos, but most poses are advanced and should be attempted only by those with proper training and skill -- or serious injuries could result. And not all poses are named, which may be frustrating for those pining for more information.

The price: $39.95

Suitable for the office

"Yoga for Suits: 30 No-Sweat Power Poses to Do in Pinstripes": Every cubicle-trapped office worker eventually feels the unpleasant effects of sitting for hours on end. Shoulders are sore from hunching over a keyboard, legs are stiff from inactivity, necks ache from tension -- it's no wonder many corporate types suffer from chronic back conditions and other assorted ailments. The remedy, says New York-based yoga instructor Edward Vilga, is yoga, and he proves you don't have to have a sticky mat and a classroom to reap the benefits. Several yoga and yoga-based poses and stretches can be done within the confines of your office or Dilbert-like workspace, such as the spreadsheet hip opener, a seated exercise in which one leg is crossed over the thigh, and the torso bends over the desk, arms outstretched. In the more advanced, standing rat-race release, the hamstrings get a good stretch with one foot resting on a chair, one arm reaching for the toes. The downward desk is a variation of the downward-facing dog; here the hands rest on the desk as the body bends at the waist. Exercises are accompanied by a list of physical and mental benefits, as well as assorted snippets of workplace wisdom, such as: "At the end of the day, you've got to let go and trust that the investments you've made in hard work and effort will be rewarded."

The good: Vilga shows that even within the confines of a small space, it's possible to do something good for the mind and body. Considering how many days go by with the only bits of exercise being trips to the bathroom or coffee runs, it's important to remember that something -- even a midday stretch -- is better than nothing.

The bad: Those fortunate to have their own offices can close the door and indulge in a few moments of privacy while trying a briefcase bend. Those in the great wide open may feel a bit self-conscious, especially if stuck in a conservative workplace that frowns on such activity. Also, many of the poses may be tough to achieve in a skirt and pantyhose.

The price: $14.95

Just watch, you'll de-stress

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