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."
Yoga reveals its astonishing, acrobatic side in this glossy art book of asanas. Gannon and Life, who developed Jivamukti ("living liberated" in Sanskrit), a challenging form of Hatha yoga, defy gravity and the strength of mere mortals-or so it seems-in the advanced positions shown here. Artfully shot over a 10-year period by British photographer Brading, also a disciple, the crisp duotone images express both the practitioners' physical skill and their spiritual concentration. Gannon and Life are masters: Jivamukti is recognized internationally; they've taught thousands of students in their centers around New York (including Madonna and Sting); even Ravi Shankar is a fan. Their starkly chiseled bodies are further proof Jivamukti is transforming: there's not an ounce of body fat anywhere. Added to this elegant volume are excerpts from Sanskrit texts and bon mots of spiritual encouragement. While this may not be a book for the average American coffee table, for yoga practitioners worldwide, it's bound to be genuinely appreciated. 150 duotone photographs. (Oct.) Copyright 2003 Cahners Business Information.