Books That Changed My Life #1

I listened to the This American Life podcast the other day and the theme was “Books That Changed My Life.”

(Ira Glass, the host, thought it was a rather unusual idea that a book could change a person’s life. Whatever, Ira.)

Not me.  Oh no. There have been many books that have completely changed the trajectory of my life.

The first one I thought of (but maybe not the first one that changed my life) was Richard Hittleman’s Yoga: 28 Day Exercise Plan.

I think it was 1976.  I was a senior in college.  I don’t even remember where I bought this book.  The college bookstore?  Walden Books at the Mall?  Who knows.

All I remember was taking it out every afternoon, spreading an old beach towel on the green shag carpet of the house I was living in, and doing it.  28 days in a row without a miss.

The blonde model on the cover wore a leotard and tights (with feet).  The illustrations were in black and white.  Each day there were a few exercises (yeah, he called them “exercises” not “asanas”), followed by a little one page “Thought for the Day.”  And then there were these words:

Do not do any additional Yoga exercising today.

Really?? This was revolutionary.  That a book about something good for you would not advocate doing it as much as possible and as hard as you could for as long as you could, was a totally novel concept to me.  And kinda crazy.  And intriguing.

Why wasn’t I allowed to do any more today?  Would something bad happen if I did more of these yoga exercises in one day?  I wasn’t going to take any chances.  I obeyed.  And everyday I came back for more.

I think it was that mandatory stop that kept me curious, interested, and hungry.  (I once heard about a Guinness World Record holder who ate an entire Volkswagon.  He did it by swallowing one little piece a day.)

That Hittleman book hooked me on yoga.  It also revealed to me an essential piece of my basic nature: as long as I can do something a little bit every day, and not have to swallow a whole big thing in one gulp, I could learn yoga, or eat a Volkswagon.

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