01st March 2021

Book in Focus

Yoga and Alignment

From the Upanishads to B.K.S. Iyengar

By Gitte Bechsgaard and Gillian McCann

There is no doubt that there have been many excellent books written on the subject of yoga. However, they tend to either focus on posture practice (asana) or high philosophy, using a very complex and often unfamiliar vocabulary. In Yoga and Alignment, the authors are mindful of the complaint of one former student who was wont to protest “too much Sanskrit!” This book, while steeped in thirty years of teaching theory and practice, is approachable, clear and a pleasurable reading experience.

Yoga and Alignment will also serve to connect the philosophy of yoga to contemporary life. When reading through classical yoga texts, it can be challenging to see how these ideas relate to the critical problems facing our world, such as overconsumption, political turmoil and the COVID-19 pandemic. However, it is precisely in helping us navigate these issues that yoga can make a vital contribution. The tradition can do this both by providing an ethical orientation and by helping us cope with the impacts of pressure, stress and anxiety that are a feature of our modern world.

Another important aspect of this book is that it brings yoga into conversation with the fields of western psychology and consciousness studies. Yoga and Alignment argues that the aspects of yoga that often seem the most confusing are, in fact, the most crucial. Meditation, as taught in yoga, is meant to facilitate spacious, synthetic and creative states of mind that are as important for health care workers, parents and environmental activists as they are for those who choose to live a more explicitly spiritual life.

A rapidly growing field of research is revealing that the practices taught by yoga have a profound healing capacity for both mind and body. It turns out that posture and breath practices have measurable effects on stress response. Meditation has also been shown to work with the innate plasticity of the human mind and can contribute to overcoming emotional stress and trauma. These teachings also aim to move beyond overcoming challenges and to facilitate positive and open states of mind that allow for optimal clarity and compassionate presence.

It is the hope of the authors that Yoga and Alignment will elucidate the concepts of yoga in a way that speaks to our present moment. The book does this by remaining rooted in the classical tradition, while also opening out to dialogue with psychology and mindfulness studies. By offering examples of ways in which these teachings can come into everyday life, the book makes these ancient teachings available to those who are trying to live mindfully in the world.

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Gitte Bechsgaard is the founding Director of Vidya Institute International, and is a Registered Psychotherapist. She has studied directly with her mentor Sri Krishan Mantriji in the areas of Yoga Philosophy, Sanskrit, Jyotish and Contemplative Practice. She is a certified Senior Iyengar Yoga Instructor (CIYT). Her publications include The Gift of Consciousness (2013) and The Sacred in Exile: What It Really Means to Lose Our Religion (co-authored with Gillian McCann, 2017).

Gillian McCann is an Associate Professor in Religions and Cultures at Nipissing University, Canada. Her academic background is in South Asian and Religious Studies, and she has also studied South Asian Philosophy with Sri Krishan Mantriji and Shivaram Thrissur. Her publications include Vanguard of the New Age: The Toronto Theosophical Society 1891-1945 (2012) and The Sacred in Exile: What It Really Means to Lose Our Religion (co-authored with Gitte Bechsgaard, 2017).

An article in which Gitte and Gillian further discuss meditative practice and Yoga psychology was recently published by Psychology Today, which you can read by clicking here.


Yoga and Alignment: From the Upanishads to B.K.S. Iyengar is available now in Hardback and eBook formats. Enter the code PROMO25 at the checkout for a 25% discount on the Hardback.