A Book Review: Ageless

Ageless by R. Sharath Jois and Isha Singh Sawhney is an accessible book espousing ancient wisdom of India which can be read in one sitting.

The text combines traditional Yogic and Ayurvedic remedies mixed with more current trends like intermittent fasting and “Earthing” to address modern lifestyle concerns and health problems.

Sharath gives advice on how to create simple changes in your lifestyle and habits to make you healthy in mind and body.

His book begs us to ask how yoga and the eight limbs of the Ashtanga practice relate to the way we eat, think, consume, breathe, sleep, exercise, and how we can be more discerning in the way we expend our energy, focus our attention, all while caring for others and our planet.

The entire text stems around this principle: “Living like a yogi is about becoming connected with vitality and health.”

The book highlights:

·      Correct Eating - amount, time, kinds of food, and integrating periodic fasting.

·      Living Consciously – getting enough sleep, spending time in nature, taking breaks from technology, and caring for each other and our environment.

·      Specific Practices – asana, pranayama, japa and meditation

Some of the most revered Ashtanga Yoga traditions and the philosophy around them are explained like the Brahma Muhurta hour, and the proper method for taking an Oil Bath to remove soreness and heat from the body and to increase vitality. 

At times, this book seems to be written for two very distinct and different audiences: the dedicated Ashtanga yoga students, and in contrast, a more general Indian population of non-yoga practitioners. I’m not convinced however that the needs and concerns of these two groups are aligned, or that the book does justice in addressing the full scope of issues that either of them face.

If you are within our Ashtanga Yoga Culture, you might concur that there are not many problems with overeating, lack of discipline, or creating a structured lifestyle routine.  If anything, it is the exact opposite. Students often become self-obsessed, overly ridged in their routines, and somewhat neurotic over their diets and fasting rituals. It concerned me that there was an emphasis once again to eat less and exercise more, which in my opinion only reinforces an already overly body-centric and often body-dismorphic group, and promotes a subtle type of anorexia in the name of spirituality and becoming a “true yogi”.

On the other side, it seems that he is trying to reach a primarily Indian audience of non-practitioners to encourage them to eat less, include periodic fasting, exercise more, and make time to consciously connect to their breath. This is a wonderful mission and sentiment, but I’m not sure this text will reach this particular modern middle-aged Indian audience.  I would argue that this audience is less interested in ancient techniques or Ayurvedic practices; instead, they are looking for a lifestyle that resembles a modern, Silicon Valley approach, which makes them unlikely to pick up this book in the first place. 

In addition to explaining the ten asanas which Sharath feels are of primary importance and espousing their benefits, he writes also about several practices we can do to internally clean the mind from negative thinking. He states that “a pure mind is developed through practices like non-harming and truthfulness.” He goes on to encourage students to cultivate a regular practice of prayer or chanting to help our spiritual evolution and connect with the “Supreme Being” both within and without.

He shares his personal routine and diet along with his favorite family recipes for Cocnut Chuttney, Curd Rice, and Carrot and Green Beans Sambar - just to name a few. He also gives several home remedies for curing ailments like allergies, cough, constipation, acid reflux, and injuries.  As well, he offers ways to include a daily detox, and adds his very own method for making “Sharath’s Power Protein Drink.”

I enjoyed reading about his personal experience with coffee and how his diet and routine has also changed over time. Although there are many internal contradictions within the book, in the end they leave room for the reader to continue exploring what effects some simple changes in diet, practices, and routine can have on her own personal experience.

This is certainly a must read for all Ashtanga Yoga practitioners. It is a wonderful compilation of many teachings within the Indian culture, as well as the lineage of Ashtanga Yoga, and you truly get a sense of what Paramaguru Sharath Jois feels is important for spiritual development.

Although the book releases today in India, you will have to wait to order your own copy in areas outside of India… or perhaps send money with one of your friends heading to Mysore this season!

 

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