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Book Review: ‘Tending the Heart Fire: Living in Flow with the Pulse of Life’ by Shiva Rea

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Tending-the-Heart-Fire-Shiva Rea

by Nancy Alder

Shiva Rea is widely recognized as one of the most well known teachers of vinyasa flow yoga.  Now, after her many years of study and teaching around the world, she has offered to her students and fellow yogis a rich guide for their practice.  Tending the Heart Fire: Living in Flow with the Pulse of Life is Shiva Rea’s latest offering to the expanding canon of yoga literature.

The book, which for the most part is devoid of asana or practice sequences, is an extensive combination of Tantric texts, yogic history and Rea’s own practice.  She mixes together mudra, tantra, mantra and yantra along with a thorough exploration of both the heart and fire, bringing to light her depth of study.  What results is a book that is as intricate as the Prana Flow sequences she teaches. The blending of ayurveda and asana, mudra and mantra and the many Tantric texts leaves the reader feeling nourished.

Shiva Rea introduces the book as a guide, one you could pick up at any place and learn something, and she is successful in that goal.  While the themes are deftly interwoven, there is enough attention to each that the reader is able to do mini lessons at any point in the text. Even though she does not spend much of the book on asana, it is clear that her physical practice is informed by living her yoga off the mat.  Through her writing the reader is offered methods in which to infuse these same things (mantra, mudra, fire, moon cycles, etc. ) into their own lives without being given specific sequences to do so, which bespeaks to Rea’s brand of freedom and flow in practice. One of the book’s highlights is the collection of vignettes in which Rea shares stories of her own yogic journey, reminding the reader that she is indeed steeped in the practice, and how she came to live her yoga.

The book is a beautiful guide filled with exquisite photographs and quotes, but it has its moments of denseness.  While it is easy to skip around and read about that which inspires one in the moment, the in-depth emphasis on ancient texts can make it heady.  However, the index is a helpful reference tool and speaks to the thoroughness of Rea’s research.  Despite the thick parts, the book would be a worthy addition to any yoga library and is a great modern counterpart to traditional asana or yogic texts.  For teachers it provides a thorough look into aspects of the practice they might not get in a basic training program.  Students will find ways to enrich their own yoga practice both on and off the mat.

Shiva Rea’s Tending the Heart Fire is a rich and gorgeous book.  For those wishing to learn more about her, about the many different aspects of her practice, and for a thorough historical investigation of heart and fire, it is a must get.  Both teachers and yoga students alike will find something new to learn and something to be inspired by in the pages of her book.

Tending the Heart Fire: Living in Flow with the Pulse of Life by Shiva Rea is out now on Sounds True.


Nancy Alder is a mom to two human and one furry elf. When not exploring the enchanted forest with them she teaches the Yoga of Ease in CT, writes about yoga and counts the days until the next snowfall. She can be found busting asanas at elementary school events, baseball games and her home away from home, www.flyingyogini.com.

11 comments… add one
  • Great review, Nancy. Thanks.

    Bob W.

  • Samantha D

    As a long time student of Shiva Rea, I’ve looked forward to this book for years. I’m so happy with how it turned out. I feel like people often judge Prana Flow and Shiva personally at surface level, and don’t realize how much philosophical, scientific, and historical research has gone into this style.

    • VQ2

      Yeah, Shiva, for all her fusion promulgations, still makes Dana Trixie look like a spiritual also-ran.

      There is and is not a way for ex-dancers or ex-dance mavens to teach yoga. And you just kind of know, who is and is not authentic after a while …

  • arlet

    thanks for the review. I’ll have to add this to my wish list! http://extendyoga.com

  • jeannyny

    SO, so needed in this world!!

  • Hey Nancy…thanks for the review. I had to make a choice a book about the embodied practice (movement-asana) or something that could be practiced by anyone and highlighted “living vinyasa” as I feel this is the least represented in yoga books. I also felt it was important to give access to the roots (in a digestible visual form) of yoga particularly in highlighting how our bodies are connected to nature as I feel this – along with recovering our energetic heart – is one of the most important contributions yoga can make to the world. I also wanted to give a cross-cultural and scientific basis of the “heart fire” so that we can understand this beyond a romantic notion. Once again, thanks for checking it out. I love “yogadork” for all your authentic, down-to earth dialogues about the current pulse of the yoga world.

    • Thanks everyone for the comments about the review. @Shiva I loved the book and have recommended it to tons of people. I actually really appreciated that you didn’t emphasize asana for exactly the reasons you stated. In fact this past weekend in my 500H training we were discussing amongst ourselves how difficult it was to find a book on talking about the koshas. I referred them to your article on the Yoga Journal site.

      It really is a wonderful addition to my very full library of yoga books and adds many things that are lacking in a really cohesive way, so thanks!

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