Essential Yoga

An Illustrated Guide
By Olivia Miller with Paul Howard, Yoga Consultant
Illustrations by Nicole Kaufman
Published by Chronicle Books, Spring 2004; 240 pages

ESSENTIAL YOGA is a comprehensive guide to the practice of hatha yoga. It features clear and detailed instructions and beautiful illustrations to over 100 yoga poses, breathing exercises, and meditations. The soft cover book with its lay-flat binding is divided into 7 chapters:

Breathing Exercises
Chapter 1 features a dozen breathing exercises (pranayamas), designed to help decrease tension, increase energy, and improve mental and physical health.

Chapter 2 includes 27 warm-ups to help loosen joints and muscles, get the circulation moving, and preparing your mind for yoga.

Chapter 3, the largest section of the book, features yoga poses (asanas) done from standing, kneeling, seated, prone, supine, and inverted positions.

Chapter 4 features 10 meditations (dhyanas) designed to help you quiet your mind and bring yourself back to the present moment.

Flowing Yoga Routines
Chapter 5 includes yoga routines that are done in a specific series, such as Sun Salutation, Moon Salutation, Camel Vinyasa.

Yoga Sessions
Chapter 6 offers 10 yoga sessions, ranging in length from 20 minutes to up to an hour and a half; thumbnail sketches of the postures are included.

Recommended Sequences
Chapter 7 includes 48 sequences for alleviating specific health conditions (back pain relief, balance and concentration, energy boost) or strengthening activities (bicycling, running, swimming).

A reference section is also provided for those who would like more information about books, websites, videos, and organizations.

This simple and complete reference guide is geared toward yoga practitioners at all levels of practice. Suggestions and cautions are provided for beginners as well s those coping with knee, back or neck pain. Tips for proper alignment and technique are included as well as the benefits of each pose, breathing exercise, and meditation.

I hope ESSENTIAL YOGA proves to be a helpful resource to you in your yoga practice. As always, namaste!

The book is available on
Apple Books
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Enjoy these 3 sample poses from Essential Yoga.

Scroll down for sample poses

Essential Yoga Chin Press Breath

(Murcha Pranayama)

Chin Press Breath stimulates the thyroid, which regulates metabolism, while stretching the muscles at the back of the neck. It improves willpower and concentration and promotes a sense of inner peace. While doing Murcha Pranayama, focus on a goal you would like to meet, knowing that your steady breathing is moving you that much closer to accomplishing it.


  • Sit with your spine comfortably extended. Close your eyes.
  • Inhale through your nose for a count of 5. Lift your chest, moving your head back slightly as you tuck your chin toward your chest.
  • Hold your breath for a count of 5. (Breath count may be modified to suit your comfort level.)
  • Exhale through your nose for a count of 5.
  • Raise your chin so that it’s level with the floor.


Can’t get thee to a massage therapist? Treat yourself to a simple and effective lower back massage with Knee Hug. This warm-up stretches the lower back muscles while massaging the entire back and the lower abdominal organs. Feel energy being restored to your entire body.


  • Lie on your back with your head resting comfortably on the floor. Make sure your chin is not higher than your forehead. If you feel any strain in your neck, place a folded blanket or towel under your head.
  • Bend both knees and bring them to your chest.
  • Wrap your arms around both shins, grasping your forearms or wrists. Lightly squeeze your legs.
  • Gently roll from side to side, massaging the lower back. Your head rests comfortably on the floor and moves in the same direction as the body.
  • For a variation, unfold your arms and place your hands on your knees. Part your knees slightly and make slow circles with them, massaging your hips and sacrum into the floor.
  • Allow your movements to be slow and gentle. Your head stays on the floor at all times.
Essential Yoga Kneww Hug
Essential Yoga Reclining Spinal Twist

(Jathara Parivrittanasana)

Reclining Spinal Twist is a centering pose that calms the mind and the nervous system as it balances the flow of energy throughout the body. It can relieve headaches and cleanse the digestive and elimination systems.


  • Lie on your back.
  • Bend both knees, with feet flat on the floor. Move your hips and buttocks 2 inches to the right and then bring your knees into your chest.
  • Extend your arms out to the sides on the floor in a V position, palms up. Roll your legs and hips to the left, touching the floor. Your right foot is on the left foot; your right knee is on the left knee. Place a pillow between your knees if it is difficult to keep them together.
  • If your back arches, move your knees closer to your ribs.
  • Turn your palms up; angle your arms to 45° (in a V-shape) so your shoulders feel comfortable.
    Slowly turn your head to the right, away from your knees.
  • Allow your back to relax. Hold for 30 to 60 seconds.
  • Slowly roll your legs and head back to center. Repeat on the other side.