Contributing Editor, Michelle Barge reviews ‘Visvamitrasana: Vol. 1 of the Sage Series’ by Nikki Vilella & Emily Stone



A Dynamic Entry into the Yoga Market Place –

Visvamitrasana: Vol. 1 of the Sage Series

The Most Challenging Poses Deconstructed with Love, Intelligence and Vision

According to the Founder of Inflextion and Publisher, Jake Laub:

      Visvamitrasana: Volume 1 of the Sage Series 

      is an interactive, audio/video e-book that explores the many facets of this intricate pose. The book includes an in-depth breakdown of       Visvamitrasana  and its variations, a rigorous class in preparation for the pose, a retelling of the legend of the sage Visvamitra, and a discussion of   how his story can help us understand the purpose of yoga.

Rarely would I use the publisher’s notes or book liner to describe the title, but as this offering is so multi-layered, I thought I’d start with the most condensed definition as we look at this most ambitious, profound, readable and usable tool for the yogi.

As a yoga teacher thus a student, I am constantly reading and exploring literature and articles on yoga – the physical aspects and the yogic path – the more esoteric aspects.  I have also been that teacher that has lugged tons of books to retreats, classes and vacations, only to be weighed down and frustrated.  I have installed countless apps (and deleted) that don’t fit the bill, and watched and saved even more videos that take up space and are one-dimensional. If I prayed for a book that would reinvigorate my practice, make me a better teacher, re-inspire me as a student and a teacher, plus teach me something new in a completely engaging way then Visvamitrasana: Volume 1 of the Sage Series is a prayer answered.

I was fortunate enough to sit with the team that collaborated on this effort, Jake Laub, the publisher, and co-authors Nikki Vilella and Emily Stone, to get some insight on their vision and how this came this concept came into play.


                                            Nikki Vilella in Visvamitrasana


Michelle Barge:  What was the genesis of this project?  How did it come about?

Jake Laub:  For this project I wanted to focus on a single pose and merge the physical practice and the philosophy into one experience. Brette Popper, publisher of YogaCity NYC, introduced me to Nikki because she is always so thoughtful and creative in her approach to advanced poses. Then Emily joined the group because she is a genius at making yogic philosophy relevant to what we actually do on the mat. Together they have created this amazing bundle of knowledge around the pose Visvamitrasana.

Nikki Vilella:  I have always been tentative about getting involved in a project like this because I wasn’t attracted to anything that existed in the marketplace. I looked at some of the prototypes Inflextion had been working on and I was immediately impressed by the quality of the product and how multi-dimensional it was. I often get students asking me if there is anything they can buy so that they can study the information at home or take my class with them on the road.  I felt that this was a team that I would be proud to work with and develop something for yoga students and teachers that did not yet exist.

MB: What need in the marketplace do you think this product is addressing?

JL:  I think there are two really big needs. The first is that it’s so hard to have a home practice, yet there are also unique advantages to practicing on your own. Rather than trying to digitize a class in a studio (which will never be the same when practiced at home), how can we design a yoga resource so that practicing at home is easier and more interesting? I think this book is a step in that direction. The second need is for yoga teachers and advanced yogis to have a resource that explores challenging poses from many different angles. These poses are about so much more than just their shapes.

MB:  I love that this is also a resource for the poses in Sanskrit and  the audio pronunciation by the great Sanskrit scholar Leslie Freyberg.

NV:  There are so many fantastic yoga books that many yoga students own and love, but they are one-dimensional book that are not interactive. Although we may know the information is great, we read part of it and don’t pick it up again for months. Many books never get read cover to cover. This product is not designed to be read cover to cover. It is designed so that the reader/user can explore it via any path that they choose. I also think there is a lack of material that allows for the in-depth study of difficult postures at home. There is often not enough time to explore the pose during class in your own time and at your own speed. This product allows for that.

Emily Stone:  We wanted to create something with a ripple effect, a product devoted solely to the process of yoga. One way to embody these ancient, transformative shapes is to steep in the mythology behind them.

MB:  Great segue into Emily’s masterful skill and knowledge telling the sacred tales and making them relevant to our every day lives.

Why start this series with this pose?  And in saying series, are there more to follow?

NV:  One of the things that Jake asked me to write about was the history or the story behind the pose, and it wasn’t something that I could intelligently write about. Around the time that I was developing the sequence, I taught a Visva class at Kula and Emily Stone happened to be there. We have long been friends and she coincidentally sent me a passage about the story of Visvamitra and Vashista and I was blown away by her knowledge of the sage poses. It made complete sense to me to bring Emily into the fold and have her write her own section of the book. It made the perfect alchemy.

MB:  And Emily your thoughts?

ES:  Story is everything. I think what first attracted me to the Vinyasa practice was the distinct narrative of each class — the story that the asana form and inform according to their myriad juxtapositions and order. In other words, a triangle by any other name still smells a triangle, but a triangle within a Vinyasa sequence tells a story with infinite interpretations as well as infinite possibilities for svadyaya (self-study).

Mankind needs metaphor or it goes crazy. One of the many great and humbling aspects of the yoga practice is that rather than being pedantic, the metaphor (or story) invites question, rumination, interpretation as well as the opportunity for expansion. When you layer an aspect of dharma or mythology into the mix, the yoga practice further expands to illuminate a tiny yet quintessential aspect of your life story that might otherwise have passed unnoticed.

Mythology and theosophy further our understanding not only of who we are but who we are becoming. This way, rather than soul cycle, we have the whole cycle: birth, life, death, rebirth and the space between. The quiet, sacred space where meaning lives, breathes and tells a story — not just to us, but about us and for us — the sacred story of our lives.

MB:  Brilliant and inspiring.

What does the future hold?

JL:  Up next is a book on yoga for cyclists and then from there we have a series of projects in the works. Right now we are focused on yoga, but the long-term plan is to publish in a variety of health and wellness categories such as Pilates, weightlifting, physical therapy, etc.

MB: Finally tell me about  Inflextion?

JL:   Inflextion is really my search to answer the question: How do you share the knowledge of doing? I have met so many amazing teachers over the years – in dance, yoga, Pilates, physical therapy – and yet not everyone has access to these teachers. Inflextion’s mission is to spread this knowledge using a creative mix of text, multimedia and interactivity. It’s all about making the knowledge as practical as possible and presenting it in a way that gets readers excited to start doing.

To purchase the Sage Series downloadable on iBooks, kindle and kobo or to purchase a flash drive visit

If you’re in the New York City area and want to experience the brilliance and knowledge of these amazing teachers, Nikki Vilella, co-owner of Kula Yoga Project and Emily Stone, senior teacher at Laughing Lotus, can be found at their respective studios.

Namaste ~ Michelle Barge




14 Responses to “Contributing Editor, Michelle Barge reviews ‘Visvamitrasana: Vol. 1 of the Sage Series’ by Nikki Vilella & Emily Stone”

  1. Kalia
    November 14, 2012 at 11:16 pm #

    Michelle – I am struck by the question that jake poses at the conclusion of the interview about how to share the knowledge of doing? It is a question that I often confront in my work as an exhibition maker and writer where often time it is easy to get caught up in the language of ideas that one tends to lose the value of the practical, of being aware of what’s taking place. This question of doing is a keen exercise in teaching and experiencing metaphor by grounding it in action.

    • Michelle
      November 15, 2012 at 3:13 pm #

      Thank you for your comment, Khalia! I will take this question directly to Jake, the publisher!

    • Jake
      November 16, 2012 at 10:16 am #

      Kalia — I totally agree. I always step back periodically while creating a book like this and consider two different questions: 1) What does the doer actually need? What would make “doing” easier? and then 2) Does the book actually achieve that or do I just want to believe that it achieves that.

      One of my philosophies in life is that everything I do should simplify and not complicate. It’s easy to complicate and think you are adding value, but the value is always added in simplifying life!

  2. elle c
    November 15, 2012 at 12:36 pm #

    what a fantastic review of an amazing resource- I’m looking forward to getting my copy. thank you all for creating this and letting us know about it!

    • Michelle
      November 15, 2012 at 3:16 pm #

      Thank you for your comment, Elle! I can barely express what a cool tool and resource this e-book truly is!

  3. Melissa
    November 15, 2012 at 3:12 pm #

    Informative review!!! Enjoyed part of interview when Nikki discusses that some times when reading books on yoga we read part of it and don’t pick it up again for months. So true on so many levels. I am thrilled that this product is designed so that the reader can explore it via any path that they choose. Go at your own speed!! Looking forward to purchasing a copy!

  4. M. Liz Andrews
    November 25, 2012 at 10:06 pm #

    Watch out for Barge! I started practicing with Michelle shortly after being introduced to yoga in 2009. Once I found her, I was hooked. She is an insightful, graceful, dedicated instructor and I am sure this will be the first of many amazing pieces from her. Her knowledge is vast.

    • Michelle
      December 4, 2012 at 1:18 pm #

      Thank you so much, Liz! You are an inspiration to me!

  5. Mary Williams
    November 29, 2012 at 9:14 am #

    Wow, wonderful review and I can’t wait to get the book. Yoga has been part of my life for over 16 years and this is inspiring. Thanks

    • Michelle
      December 4, 2012 at 1:18 pm #

      Download it on to your iPad, kindle or nook! The inter-activity will blow your mind! Sanskrit audio anyone!

  6. Cator Sparks
    December 6, 2012 at 9:01 am #

    Great work Michelle! Your depth of knowledge in this field is always impressive and something to be noted by others in the field.

    I would really work on a home yoga experience, but it’s so hard too when you are my teacher and it’s so much fun to go to class!

    • Michelle Barge
      December 7, 2012 at 10:23 am #

      Thank you my dear friend and yogi! But knowing what a serious student you are and your love of the Vedic philosophy AND an original kindle convert, for half the price of a class – you should download just to have!


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