Author: Anodea Judith, Ph.D
Trade Paperback, 480 pages
Publication date: 2000
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This book is, quite possibly, the gold standard for introductions to the chakra system intended for the lay person or beginning yoga practitioner or energy worker. It does not require an intimate knowledge of the Vedas, Upanishads, Sutras, and Tantric texts, but it does reference them and point the curious reader to them for further research. In the sea of popular chakra books and paraphernalia to be found in the New Age section of most bookstores, this is often the only book one finds that actually goes back to these primary sources.
It is not a book meant to be simply read through from cover to cover, except perhaps as an overview before digging in. It is, as the title states, a user's guide, and as such is meant to be worked with, not just skimmed over. The first chapter, "And the Wheel Turns," explores the basic concepts of the body's energy system, and refers to other comparable systems, before delving more deeply into the structure of the chakras, the shushumna, or column of energy traversing the spinal column, and the interweaving currents along that column, before delving more thoroughly into the chakras themselves. This chapter and each chapter on each of the seven primary chakras (from root to crown) includes standard and modern imagery, and suggested physical and meditational exercises.
After each chakra has been covered, the final section of the book focuses on "Putting It All Together," with chapters on the journey back down the system from crown to root, something conspicuously absent from many other books on the subject, interaction between the chakras, extrapolation to the pattern of evolution in human society, and suggestions on how to foster healthy development of the chakras in children.
If I had to find one thing to fault in this book, it would be the presentation of the yoga postures. Granted, the preface to the first edition "strongly stress[es] that any physical exercises given in this book be done slowly and carefully, and that you take care not to push or strain muscles, or coerce the body into positions that are painful or uncomfortable in any way. If you experience discomfort, STOP," and the second edition eliminates two of the more challenging postures best avoided by those unpracticed in yoga. However, given my cynicism regarding modern readers and front matter, I fear that many of those most likely to hurt themselves will never see this caution, and would prefer to see it reiterated prior to the exercises at the end of chapter 2.
This one concern aside, I strongly recommend this book to anyone seeking a basic foundation in the history and concepts behind and experience of the chakra system.
Reviewed by Diane Verrochi