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From the Gita to the Grail by Bernie Clark

Most teachers who have done Yin Yoga teacher training are familiar with Bernie Clark. Bernie is the co-author of the well-respected book “The Complete Guide to Yin Yoga,” which is often considered to be the most thorough and comprehensive book about Yin Yoga currently available.

Bernie came to meditation in his early 20s as a way to combat stress, but it wasn’t until almost 20 years later that he added an asana practice to his life.

Bernie Clark“From the yogic perspective, my first teacher was shakti mhi and soon after I discovered Erich Schiffman who greatly influenced me. My yoga practice gravitated to the Ashtanga style and I learned a lot from David Swenson and Tim Miller, and then discovered Shiva Rea,” Bernie told me. “I am forever grateful to Saul David Raye who introduced me to Yin Yoga, and to Sarah Powers and Paul Grilley who deepened my understanding of this practice. In the practice of meditation I was inspired by Joko Beck at the San Diego Zen Centre and the monks and nuns of Thich Nhat Hanh’s monasteries, especially in Plum Village. Finally, while I never had the chance to meet him in person, Joseph Campbell has been a huge influence and inspiration to me.”

Ten years later, in his 50s, Bernie began teaching others. “As a teacher, I enjoy sharing knowledge and stories. Many students ask me to repeat some of the stories that I shared during yoga classes, so it was an obvious leap to decide to compile them into a book.”

His latest book, From the Gita to the Grail: Exploring Yoga Stories and Western Myths, is the culmination (and exploration) of the stories he had been studying for decades.

When I heard of Bernie’s latest book, I was delighted, and sat down to read it as soon as it arrived. Little did I know it would take a couple weeks! Inside this 500+ page book Bernie looks at spiritual stories found in the East and in the West. There are profound lessons to be learned, and these stories can shape our lives. While the book is thick, and intimidating upon first glance, it is very well written. It is easy to understand and digest, even if you have no familiarity with any of the stories.

The book is broken down into four main sections:

  • The Cosmological Function
  • The Sociological Function
  • The Psychological Function
  • The Mystical Function

Within each of these sections Bernie shares several myths from Eastern and Western mythology. Beyond just sharing myths, Bernie discusses them, and the reader is invited to explore the lessons as a way to deepen their understanding of life, the universe, and (dare I say) everything. The myths – and Bernie’s accompanying discussions – are thought provoking, emotional, and moving.

I asked Bernie what his favourite myth is, and he said: “Do I only get one favourite? That is hard, but I think the most important one is the Story of the Self, where we are introduced to a very different creation myth from the one I grew up with in the West. In this story we discover that there is another way to look at creation: that we are divine, not merely divinely created.”

The chapter that spoke to me most of all is Chapter 12: Myths for Women. This chapter highlights how women have been perceived in various cultures around the world for hundreds of years. Myths for Women was a very eye-opening chapter for me, and has made me very grateful to grow up in the society – and era – in which I live.

Get Bernie’s book from Amazon, and start exploring yoga myths this weekend.