***BIG NEWS: Richard Hittleman’s classic TV series “Yoga For Health” Has been released on DVD! Check it out at www.richardhittleman.com ***
Richard Hittleman’s “Yoga for Health” is not a new book. It is, however, tried and true. First published in 1983, “Yoga for Health” has been a reliable resource not only for beginners, but for long term practitioners as well.
Hittleman (1927 – 1991) is famous for bringing Yoga to millions of people in the 1960s and 1970s with one of the first ever Yoga television series. He brought Yoga to more people than any other living person at the time. He was indeed a pioneer.
Richard Hittleman changed my life
In fact, his TV program is how I came to discover Yoga in the first place. With four of my six children already born, and my husband in college full time, I needed something to keep me centered and fit. Hittleman’s TV series opened up a whole new world for me, as it did for countless others.
In the 1960’s, Yoga was not yet as mainstream in western culture as it is now. The success of Hittleman’s TV programs was instrumental in generating significant growth of Yoga in the western world. His televised series along with his books, recordings and lectures, helped Yoga finally be recognized in the west. He showed people it was a valuable tool for achieving a healthy body and mind.
Ahead of his time
Richard Hittleman began to learn about Yoga at the early age of 9. He continued to practice it throughout his schooling years. After earning a Master’s Degree from Columbia University’s Teachers College, he pursued intensive Yoga studies with Hindu gurus. During that period he developed his famous “Yoga for Health” system.
Hittleman introduced Yoga in an easy-to-follow manner. Like me at the time, many people were new to the subject. His method focused on the simplicity and practicality of Yoga regardless of age, physical condition, or cultural background.
The book “Yoga for Health” contains the basic materials of the system he developed. It’s more than just a book, however. It is a “Total Program”.
The Total Program
Part 1 focuses on Hatha Yoga, or, the physical practice of Yoga. There are 27 poses (asanas), with straightforward, step by step instruction on how to perform each one. He then provides three routines with selected poses which you can rotate from day to day. I find this particularly helpful and easy to follow as a practice plan.
Next, he makes suggestions for applying specific routines and poses to help with particular physical problems and conditions, or to help strengthen and tone certain parts of your body.
Part 2 of Hittleman’s “Yoga For Health” program focuses on nutrition. He explains how taking care of your body with proper food choices goes hand in hand with Yoga practice and is essential for maintaining good health.
Hittleman points out, “It is generally recognized today that the average American diet is too high in fats, salts, and refined sugars. We eat more protein than we really need, and too few complex carbohydrates.” This was written 30 years ago, but unfortunately still rings true today.
He adds that many of the problems associated with aging can be attributed to years of excess eating, poor nutrition, and a lack of body conditioning. He suggests that through Yoga practice and eating for maximum nutritional value, many of these “age related” problems can be reversed, or prevented in the first place.
In the Nutrition section, Hittleman also makes recommendations on which foods to include in your diet, which to avoid, and why. He makes daily menu suggestions, discusses weight regulation and offers advice for family, social and restaurant dining. There is also a page on different types of fasting for cleansing and renewal.
Part 3 provides an abundance of healthy and appetizing recipes, from sandwiches and main courses, to pastries and desserts. The recipes are free of any meats. Eggs and dairy are kept to a minimum and can be substituted with plant based alternatives.
In Part 4, Hittleman eloquently discusses how we can recognize our own true nature and find inner tranquility. He also explains that the primary objective of Hatha Yoga is to quiet the mind, and that the high level of fitness and health that result from practicing are actually by-products. He elaborates on the philosophical principles of Yoga, and finally, the importance of meditation.
Wisdom never gets old
I highly recommend exploring any of Hittleman’s work on Yoga. His teachings are revered as timeless. His earlier books such as “Richard Hittleman’s Yoga 28-Day Exercise Plan” (1969) as well as “Yoga for Health” continue to get rave reviews. Many of his publications can likely be found at your local library. Used copies can also be found online for literally pennies.
Posthumously, Richard Hittleman’s work is still highly influential. It reverberates throughout much of Yoga as it is taught and practiced in the western world today. It most certainly was and still is a major influence on the way I practice and teach.