The New Yorker
Celebrity yoga has become its own industry, generating magazine covers, fashion lines, and now books. Christy Turlington, the limber supermodel and yoga-clothing designer, ambitiously combines memoir, historical survey, and instruction manual in Living Yoga. "I discovered that I could be graceful and agile and could hold my balance in challenging poses, both as a model and as a yogi," she writes. Two of Turlington's instructors, Sharon Gannon and David Life, showcase their own form in The Art of Yoga, in which philosophical aphorisms accompany glossy black-and-white photographs of seemingly impossible positions: in Dwi Pada Sirsasana, Life balances on his hands, hovering inches off the floor with ankles crossed neatly behind his head.
Mariel Hemingway doesn't claim great feats of contortion in her memoir, Finding My Balance, but she credits yoga with sorting out her turbulent life. The suicide of her famous grandfather looms large, along with her mother's cancer, one sister's mental illness, the other's addiction, and Hemingway's own obsessive-compulsive behaviors. She writes, "I no longer feel a helpless victim of my family's strange interactions and flawed genetic pool."
Even nonhuman celebrities have joined the act, albeit with less emphasis on spiritual redemption. Laurent de Brunhoff's Babar's Yoga for Elephants traces yoga back to prehistoric elephants (who, contrary to human custom, practiced with shoes on). The elephant king and his queen, Celeste, travel the world mimicking man-made structures with their asanas: "The Golden Gate Bridge? Two elephants doing the Cobra."
Elegantly illustrated book.
Supermodel Turlington, whose angelic face has graced the pages of Vogue, Elle and other fashion glossies since the 1980s, has lately been lending her image to a more profound pursuit: yoga. The 33-year-old has been practicing yoga for 15 years, has her own yoga clothing line, is a Yoga Journal contributing editor, and-with the publication of this book-becomes the first mainstream celebrity to write a book about yoga and how it's affected her life. There's a lot to digest here, between the historical and technical explanations about yoga and Eastern philosophy and the anecdotal asides from Turlington's life, but the book's clean, Zen-like layout and simple prose help make it accessible. Turlington's aim is to help students who may be overwhelmed by the unlimited information available on yoga and to emphasize reasons to practice that go beyond getting a nice butt. She attempts to understand yoga's universal spiritual appeal, examining the basics of Hinduism (Turlington is a practicing Catholic), and draws parallels between chanting and saying the rosary. She shares a bit of personal information about her modeling career, her father's death from lung cancer and her relationship with her sisters, and includes the obligatory photographs of her scantily clad self doing salamba sirsasana (headstand) and bakasana (crow pose). The combination of serious yoga talk with memoir-like reminiscences make for an engrossing and inspiring overview of yoga. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.