Writing

Archive for the 'Books' Category

The Path to the Yoga Sutras

The Path to the Yoga Sutras: A Practical Guide to the Core of Yoga by Nicolai Bachman

Many serious yoga practitioners pore over Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, and any reputable yoga teacher training will require this foundational text for its students. But just as many people find the mysterious aphorisms, Sanskrit, and multitude of commentaries intimidating. Nicolai Bachman, a Santa Fe-based Sanskritist and yoga teacher, has compiled The Path of the Yoga Sutras to address this issue.

Rather than going through the sutras verse by verse as most commentaries do, Bachman spotlights the text’s core concepts (51 by his count), following a similar structure to the Yoga Sutras home study course he released last year. Continue reading ‘The Path to the Yoga Sutras’

Fierce Medicine

Fierce Medicine: Breakthrough Practices to Heal the Body and Ignite the Spirit, by Ana T. Forrest.

This generous and straight-talking book showcases Ana Forrest’s intelligence and creativity as a healer, while dipping into memoir to detail the extreme abuse she suffered as a child. Born crippled, Forrest (the creator of Forrest Yoga) was imprisoned, drugged, starved, and raped from the age of two, and started drinking alcohol at four. At six, she began working in a nearby stable to escape her sadistic family, and, at 17, while working as a horse trainer, she attempted suicide by jumping off a cliff. As remarkable as her recovery from these soul-crushing experiences is her perspective—rebellious, inquisitive, and clear-eyed.
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The Guru in You

The Guru in You: A Personalized Program for Rejuvenating Your Body and Soul by Yogi Cameron Alborzian

Former male supermodel Cameron Alborzian has written a compulsively readable book on yoga and ayurveda, littered with stories from his modeling career, personal life, and therapeutic work with clients. The Guru in Yoga aims to get people on the path of health and healing by helping them set clear intentions, work with breath and asanas, and apply ayurvedic techniques. For those who can’t afford Alborzian’s handsome services, this book is a helpful alternative.

published in Yoga International, Winter 2010-2011 issue Continue reading ‘The Guru in You’

Reaching Seekers

An Interview with Max Strom

Born a 12-pound baby with club feet, Max Strom spent the many years of his early life in casts and braces—or in surgery—before he learned to walk. In 2002, he established the center for Sacred Movement in Venice, California, now home to such teachers as Shiva Rea, Saul David Ray, and Eric Schiffman. Twelve years in the making, his book, A Life Worth Breathing: A Yoga Master’s Handbook of Strength, Grace and Healing (Skyhorse Publishing, $24.95) collects his insights on yoga practice and life, incorporating stories and exercises for yoga students and teachers.
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Radanath Swami: American in Mumbai

In front of tens of thousands of people, the guru motioned. “Tell that young man to come.” But the young man sitting shyly at the very back of the enormous tent didn’t understand. After waving and gesturing to no effect, an assistant went to get him, parting the awed crowd. So Radanath Swami, formerly Richard Slavin of Chicago, met the man who ultimately became his teacher, A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. Or, some might say, this was how Srila Prabhupada chose him.

On a bitterly cold December night, Slavin, now 59, read from his recently published memoir, The Journey Home: Autobiography of an American Swami (Mandala, $24.95) at Eddie Stern’s Ashtanga Yoga Shala on Broome Street. A slight, unassuming man, he sat quietly in the audience next to one of his students, wrapped in the light orange robe of a monk (unbeknownst to me; I sat down right beside him, Continue reading ‘Radanath Swami: American in Mumbai’

Lady Matters: the Power of Women in Yoga

Critics’ pick

A yoga class in which only men can chant “om” seems silly today, but that restriction was once one of many imposed on female practitioners. Janice Gates, founding director of Yoga Garden Studio in San Anselmo, California, illuminates the yogic role of the fairer sex in her new book, Yogini: The Power of Women in Yoga (Mandala Press, $20). Gates begins with a compelling overview—including the story of how women’s role in the practice diminished once the Brahmin culture took hold in India in 1500 B.C.E.—before profiling 17 contemporary yogini pioneers, including Sharon Gannon, the director of megastudio Jivamukti, and Gurumayi, Siddha Yoga’s beloved leader. With handsome reproductions of yoginis in Indian art, the book uncovers a story that’s rarely told: Women were once valuable teachers and spiritual guides in yoga—and now finally are again.

Time Out New York / Issue 583 : November 30, 2006 – December 6, 2006

For Total Posers (four book reviews)

Unfurl your mat and meditate on this summer’s best yoga books.

Yoga Beneath the Surface: An American Student and His Indian Teacher Discuss Yoga Philosophy and Practice By Srivatsa Ramaswami and David Hurwitz. Marlowe and Company, $16 paperback.Don’t have a personal guru? How about a portable one? In Yoga Beneath the Surface, Indian master Srivatsa Ramaswami elaborates on the finer points of yoga philosophy with California yogi David Hurwitz. A student of the renowned Sri T. Krishnamacharya (1888–1989), Ramaswami illuminates issues as varied as the nature of the self, the hidden benefits of poses and whether to jump back to chaturanga on an inhale, exhale or no breath at all. The conversational format is skimmable—making it handy for yogis commuting between classes—but the full experience may require the use of other reference books, notably Ramaswami’s The Complete Book of Vinyasa Yoga. And if you aren’t already comfortable with Sanskrit and the yoga sutras, this book will take some effort.
Continue reading ‘For Total Posers (four book reviews)’

Peace Keeper: Pema Chodron

Critic’s Pick

To end wars, some march on Washington or analyze foreign diplomacy. According to Buddhist nun and best-selling author Pema Chödrön, we need to meditate, too. Chödrön, 70, discusses ways to de-escalate violence—on ourselves, others and the world—among other topics on the season finale of PBS’s Bill Moyers on “Faith & Reason” on Friday 4 at 9pm and Sunday 6 at 7pm. It will be a rare appearance for Chödrön who, in failing health, recently embarked on a yearlong retreat. Her new book, Practicing Peace in Times of War (Shambhala, $16), lands in bookstores this September, and, like her other tomes, makes complex Buddhist ideas appealing and accessible to the average joe. “War and peace begin in the hearts of individuals,” she says. And when she says it, you believe her.

Time Out New York / Issue 566 : August 3, 2006 – August 9, 2006

The Heart and Soul of Sex

Critics’ pick

Sexual Healing

A few blissful nights might tell you what tantric yogis have always believed: Sexual and spiritual ecstasy are related. And now we’ve got hard evidence. Sex therapist and scholar Gina Ogden, Ph.D., applies Western academic research methods to the ancient tradition in her new book, The Heart and Soul of Sex: Making the ISIS Connection (Trumpeter, $23). Of the more than 3,000 women and 600 men she polled, 67 percent say, “Sex needs to be spiritual to be satisfying.” These findings challenge prevailing medical models, which study intercourse within the parameters of performance and dysfunction. On Tuesday 25, Ogden discusses her findings at the Open Center and offers practical advice for transcendence in the bedroom (think tantra, chakras and visualizations). Yes, the book is aggressively New Agey, but don’t let that turn you off, because it could ultimately turn you on.

83 Spring Street between Broadway and Crosby Street (212-219-2527, opencenter.org).

Time Out New York / Issue 564 : July 20, 2006 – July 26, 2006

Sleeping Weather, by Cary Fagan (book)

Sleeping Weather by Cary Fagan Published by Porcupine’s Quill

Leon Stone, Cary Fagan’s leading man in Sleeping Weather, is a Toronto character who’s spent some time in Kingston penetentiary and who urgently wants an explanation for his childhood. Fagan gives him lots of emotional snarls to untangle: a daughter he’d clearly die for, a forgiving marriage (which he feels undeserving of), a business that eerily mimics his father’s, and a new neighbour named Vasily who reminds Leon (reluctantly) of himself. As Leon moves through his daily joys and trials, the contrast between his adult satisfaction in marriage and his devastation as a son grows starker.
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Breasting the Waves: On Writing and Healing

Breasting the Waves: On Writing and Healing by Joanne ArnottPublished by Press Gang

Joanne Arnott in Breasting the Waves: On Writing and Healing writes with great effort, feeling her way toward expression and sense without giving her life away as if it were in the “miscellaneous” box at a garage sale. Arnott begins and ends with her story of being held hostage and beaten by a man she met on her way to university. The meaning of “hostage” (but not “victim”) is questioned over and over in the book as Arnott remembers growing up female, Métis and abused. She approaches herself respectfully. The essays blur seminar-style information and fiction-style narrative; but straight fiction might have allowed her more intensity. Also, the title of this book undermines Arnott’s seriousness with an unnecessary play on words. And while I loved the shape and feel of the cover, the image seemed wrong; at first glance it made me skeptical of the contents.

Geist Magazine, Issue #21

Princess at the Window: A New Gender Morality

Princess at the Window: A New Gender Morality by Donna Laframboise Published by Penguin

If you watch TV or read the popular press, you probably know more about the rebellion against feminism than you do about feminism itself. Nay-sayers to the women’s movement have been popular since Camille Paglia, queen of provocation, cleared the way in 1990. Most of these books that promise to throw a wrench in the works of social change, including Toronto Star columnist Donna Laframboise’s The Princess at the Window, are being issued by big houses (Kate Fillion’s recent and much-excerpted Lip Service from HarperCollins; Katie Roiphe’s Morning After: Sex, Fear and Feminism from Little, Brown; Wendy Dennis’s Hot and Bothered: Sex and Love in the 90s from Key Porter) perhaps because they promise high sales due to their controversy. These books are quintessential pop-psychology, café talk dressed up as exposé and inquiry, the sort of stuff pop-culture loves. Their writing masquerades as intelligent rumination on the nature of things (in this case feminism) for those of us who don’t have the time or attention spans to read the real thing.
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Lonesome Monsters

Lonesome Monsters by Bud OsbornPublished by Anvil

Speaking of jarring but effective writing, Bud Osborn’s Lonesome Monsters (Anvil) successfully dramatizes the harsher side of urban life. This book, though it doesn’t break new ground in form or content, depicts the Main-and-Hastingses of North America in unpretentious and straightforward poems. The modesty with which each poem is constructed underscores the sadness and despair that their characters feel. Osborn’s sense of humour and his portraits of violence, exploitation and heartache, easy to overdo, survive my distaste for melodrama and even survive the text’s unflattering typeface. Apparently Osborn’s been writing for twenty-five years. Where has he been all this time?

Geist Magazine, Issue #22

Self by Yann Martel

Self By Yann MartelPublished by Knopf Canada

Yann Martel’s novel Self (Knopf), seems aptly titled for a book that depicts a character growing from childhood into adulthood. Martel’s first book, The Facts Behind the Helsinki Roccamatios, kept me on my couch for chapter after chapter with tears in my eyes. Self displays Martel’s breadth of knowledge, his skill at prose and his lovely imagination. In spite of this, it has been resting at the bottom of my bedside reading pile with a bookmark stuck in about a third of the way through for at least a month now. Continue reading ‘Self by Yann Martel’