If you put your body into it, the mind and the spirit will follow. That's the operating principle in the mind-body-spirit category, as publishers offer books describing physical practices that benefit the body, the brain and the soul. And they might be on to something—a recent report on ABC's World News Tonight stated that as many as 60% of Americans have turned to some form of mind-body-spirit work, such as yoga, meditation or tai chi, in search of well-being.
Steve Jadick, sales, marketing and acquisitions editor at Morning Light Press, traces the popularity of mind-body-spirit books back to Carl Jung's dictum that it takes spirit to conquer spirit. "One needs a vital spiritual experience, a visceral worship," Jadick explains. In traditional religions, he says, "we always delegated the magic to a priest or a minister or a rabbi, but now everyone wants that personal engagement. And because of this, things that were once on the fringe are coming closer to the center."
The Yoga Boom
Nothing better illustrates that than the popularity of yoga books. Some 16.5 million Americans now practice yoga, according to a 2005 study by Yoga Journal. That popularity has driven books on yoga, once an obscure Eastern discipline, beyond small bookstores specializing in Eastern religions and into the mainstream.
But that popularity has come at a cost, according to Julie Saidenberg, associate publisher at Shambhala, who says basic yoga books have flooded the market. "If it is a general title, you are in big trouble, but if it addresses a high level of yoga, you have a chance," she says. Shambhala learned this firsthand with its 2002 title The Yoga of Breath: A Step-by-Step Guide to Pranayama by Richard Rosen, which Saidenberg estimates sold 18,000 to 20,000 copies. "That made sense because pranayama [breathing practice] is not something you can get in a yoga class every day." The company has similar hopes for Chakra Yoga: Balancing Energy for Physical, Spiritual and Mental Well-being by Alan Finger and Katrina Repka (2005), which has sold 6,000 copies since December. Other longtime yoga publishers are publishing to the committed yogi. At Inner Traditions, The Yoga of the Nine Emotions: The Tantric Practice of Rasa Sadhana by Peter Marchand (June) looks at tantric and ayurvedic practices, including fasting, for emotional health.
Not everyone agrees that yoga books must aim at the advanced practitioner to find a market. Linda Cogozzo, cofounder of Rodmell Press, which has been publishing books on yoga and other practices since 1988, says, "Yoga has become a lifestyle," and to maintain that lifestyle, books are essential. "How do they take it home where there is no teacher to guide them?" Cogozzo asks. Rodmell's newest is Yoga: Awakeningthe Inner Body (Apr.) by press cofounder Donald Moyer. Inner Ocean will also illuminate yoga as a way of life with The Hip Tranquil Chick: A Guide to Life On and Off the Yoga Mat by Kimberly Wilson (Nov. 2006). Other books in this vein include Empowering the Soul: Self-Transformation for Joyful Living, a collection of essays edited by Linda Johnson (Himalayan Institute Press, May) that cover basic yoga, meditation and breathing, and The Four Yogas: A Guide to the Spiritual Pathwaysof Action, Devotion, Meditation and Knowledge (Jan.) by Swami Adiswarananda (Skylight Paths, copublished with the Ramakrishna-Vivekenanda Center of New York). Red Wheel Weiser has Bony Yoga by Ryn Gargulinski (2005), a collection of lighthearted line drawings of yoga positions.
Publishers who once wouldn't have been caught dead in a downward-facing dog are now publishing yoga books of their own. Resurrection Press, an imprint of Catholic Book Publishing, enters the category with Beatitudes, Christ and the Practice of Yoga by Fr. Anthony Randazzo, a Catholic parish priest, and Madelana Ferrara-Mattheis (Apr.). Emily Cerar, a Resurrection editor, says Catholic publishers are better known for books on the soul than on the body, "but there is also a need to take care of the body, and that is how this book came about, as a way of bringing in balance." She says Resurrection is interested in doing more books with a body focus and offers Changing Habits: The Total Caregiver's Workout by Debbie Mandel (2005), which describes a workout developed for Dominican sisters, and The Spiritual Spa: Getting Away Without Going Away by Mary Kavanagh Sherry (Apr.), which shows how activities such as shopping and gardening can be spiritual experiences.
Move Over, Yogi
Now yoga is beginning to give up shelf space to other physical practices, especially those that promise healing benefits. Some of these practices, like sound healing, were once as obscure as yoga, but are rapidly gaining a following, with certification schools, training centers and even a professional association—the American Music Therapy Association—popping up across the country. Publishers have been quick to pick up on the trend, offering books on the benefits of Tibetan singing bowls, Australian digereedoos and other ancient instruments. Binkey Kok, distributed by Weiser, has Sound Healing with the Five Elements: Sound Instruments, Sound Therapy, Sound Energy by Daniel Perret (2005). Tibetan Sound Healing by Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche (Sounds True, Aug.) and The Harmony of Health: Sound Relaxation for Mind, Body and Spirit by Don Campbell (Hay House, May), both come with CDs.
In fact, a growing number of mind-body-spirit publishers provide an aural experience with their books. Chief among these is Sounds True, which has long offered audio and video lessons and courses, but began publishing books just two years ago. "Books can take you so far, but a CD can take you to the next level, especially if you are doing some of these lesser-known practices" like Tibetan sound healing and walking meditation, says Kelly Notaras, Sounds True's new editorial director. "We are seeing [book-CD combinations] being embraced by booksellers and buyers." New from Sounds True will be Your Body Speaks Your Mind by Deb Shapiro (June), with a CD of guided meditations designed to help identify what physical symptoms are trying to tell you, and Walking Meditation by Thich Nhat Hanh and Anh-Houng Nguyen (Aug.), which also comes with a CD. Hay House, too, includes CDs with instructions, music and guided meditation for many of its mind-body-spirit books, including Saying Yes to Change: Essential Wisdom for Your Journey by Joan Borysenko (Jan.), which has a CD of guided meditations.
Even more unusual practices, like belly dancing and drumming, are finding a home in the mind-body-spirit section. Some of these books promise benefits that rival yoga, while others limit their aims to a whole lot of fun. Stone Bridge Press, which publishes books about Japan, published The Way of Taiko (a form of Japanese sacred drumming) by Heidi Varian (2005). The Spiritual Practices of the Ninja: Mastering the Four Gates to Freedom by Ross Heaven (Inner Traditions, Mar.) describes the exercises and initiatory practices of the ninja. New World Library has The Woman's Belly Book: Finding Your Treasure Within by Lisa Sarasohn (June), and Hay House's The Way of the Belly by belly-dancing twins Neena and Veena, with Nancy Bruning (Mar.), details all the ways wiggling one's beaded hips can bring a deeper sensuality as well as revitalized spirituality; it comes with a CD.
Many books that look to Eastern practices for physical health. DeVorss has revised and updated its 1973 Touch for Health by John and Matthew Thie (2005). Soul Mind Body Medicine: A Complete Soul Healing System for Optimum Health and Vitality by Chinese medicine practitioner Zhi Gang Sha (New World Library, Apr.) and The Taoist Secrets of Long Life and Good Health: A Complete Program to Rejuvenate the Mind, Body and Spirit by Charles Chan (Sterling, Mar.) illuminate Chinese ideas about the cultivation and movement of energy in the body. Rodmell's The Tao of Natural Breathing (May) by Dennis Lewis describes the way and the benefits of breath work.
Add a Little Qi Gong and Stir
Many new titles offer a mélange of physical practices, mixing East and West to come up with something new. Notaras says this stems from many people's current interest in world religions. "I think we are a society that is moving away from sectarianism and toward universal truth," she says. Titles along these lines are The Practice of Presence by Patty de Llosa (Morning Light Press, Mar.), offering wisdom and physical practices from tai chi, the Alexander technique, Jungian studies, Gurdjieff's teachings, and prayer and meditation. Shamanic Christianity: The Direct Experience of Mystical Communion by Bradford Keeney (Inner Traditions, Mar.) blends shamanic practices with Christianity through meditation and rituals.
"I see [mind-body-spirit] as a category that is continuing to emerge," says Munro Magruder, associate publisher and director of marketing at New World Library. "The paradox is that technology was supposed to make our lives easier, but we are struggling to keep up and looking for solace from the constant demands." Llewellyn recently hired Carrie Obry as an acquisitions editor specializing in alternative health, healing and self-help titles. And Richelle Zizian, a publicist at Hay House, sees no end to the readers in search of wholeness. "No matter how many times you write the same thing, say, about yoga, there is always someone who has never read it before."