Tales from the Yoga Studio

A Novel

by Rain Mitchell

It’s surprising that, with the popularity of yoga in the last few years, there aren’t more novels about it. So, I was happy to pick up a copy of Tales from the Yoga Studio.  

Set in the trendy neighborhood of Silver Lake in Los Angeles, this book follows the women’s fiction formula of focusing on five characters (it’s usually three or four), their striking differences, and the one thing that unites them (in this case, yoga).

Lee is the owner of Edendale Yoga and serves as the rock for this small community while hiding her own turmoil.  The other four women are Lee’s students at the studio and each coming to terms with major decisions in their lives. While I loved the diversity (economic, racial, etc.) of the women, the character development was not very great so I had a hard time connecting to any of them.


My favorite part of the book, though, was the secondary plot that focused on the commercialization and corporate takeover of the yoga industry. The debate (that mirrors one ongoing in the current yoga world) about what is a “pure” yoga experience and should it be practiced in a neighborhood studio or a chain was an interesting one.


*Sidenote:  One of the characters, Imani, was African-American and there was a passage attributed to her that rubbed me the wrong way:

Race: Let’s just say that even though black men are, on the whole, a pain in the ass, usually carrying around a chip on their shoulders and pathologically commitmentphobic, she has to admit she’s always melted under the gaze of a brother’s big brown eyes.

Maybe I’m being a little too sensitive (I can be sometimes), and if this book was written by an African-American author I probably wouldn’t have a problem with it, but this made me feel some kind of way.
What do you think? 


Poser

My Life in Twenty-Three Yoga Poses

by Claire Dederder

Because I long to be a yogini one day, I am fascinated with people’s stories about how they came to practice yoga and how (or if) their lives changed.

Claire Dederer, a freelance writer living in Seattle, started taking yoga after she threw her back out breastfeeding (!!!) her young daughter. Although she definitely is a product of the “crunchy” Northwest – kids in a co-op preschool, having the right organic diet – she had no desire to practice in a yoga studio with Tibetan flags and incense burning.  She just wanted relief for her back.

I loved that she visited several different studios and teachers piecing together the perfect practice for herself. And each chapter is named after a specific yoga pose which Dederer then relates to some aspect of her life.  For example, the chapters on Child’s Pose (there’s more than one) have her reflecting on her childhood and choices her parents made for her.  Mountain Pose is the perfect opportunity to talk about the year that she and her husband and children spend living away from Seattle and their friends & family atop a mountain outside of Boulder, Colorado.

A Busy Month (Hopefully)

If I act like a good girl and honor my commitments to myself, then September should be a busy month for me.  That’s because it is National Yoga Month, National Sewing Month, and Monday starts the Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine’s (PCRM) 21-Day Vegan Challenge

Now, ideally, I would like to commit to practicing yoga and sewing everyday, but as I’m notoriously lazy, I doubt that will happen but I will do my best.  The one thing I can commit to doing is reading more about the subjects.  You know I’m always down to read a good book.  So here are my choices to commemorate this busy month:

NATIONAL YOGA MONTH

The Subtle Body: The Story of Yoga In America
by Stefanie Syman

NATIONAL SEWING MONTH

 Solutions to Every Problem You’ll Ever Face, Answers to Every Question You’ll Ever Ask
by Barbara Weiland Talbert

I have a lot of books on sewing in my library, but I rarely sit down and read them cover to cover. I just reference them when I have a question.  This little book is just full of tips and tricks and I will go through every page.

Because New York Fashion Week is also this month, I will be reading this:

Nina Garcia’s Look Book:  What to Wear for Every Occasion

21-DAY VEGAN CHALLENGE
This is the one thing that I will definitely be doing everyday. I get recipes from all over the place but will use a couple of books and cookbooks as well.

Veganomicon: The Ultimate Vegan Cookbook
by Isa Chandra Moskowitz & Terry Romero

Quick & Easy Vegan Comfort Food: 65 Everyday Meal Ideas for Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner With over 150 Great-Tasting, Down-Home Recipes
by Alicia C. Simpson

By Any Greens Necessary:  A Revolutionary Guide for Black Women Who Want to Eat Great, Get Healthy, Lose Weight and Look Phat
by Tracye Lynn McQuirter

Join me if you want. Inspire me if you will. Support me if you can!

1. Breathing Space


Twelve Lessons for the Modern Woman
by Katrina Repka and Alan Finger

First finished book of the year! And a great one to start out with. Katrina Repka chronicles a year of her life that included significant changes. Like a lot of young women obsessed with the New York that we see portrayed in tv shows and movies like Sex in the City, she moved there thinking that the move alone would be enough to jumpstart her life. But, as so often happens (I know this first hand), your issues and problems follow you wherever you go.

She visited the yoga center of Alan Finger, a Master Yogi, and for the next twelve months, with his help, was able to learn more about herself and obtained the tools to move forward. Alan gave her instruction in the form of breathing exercises to help her focus on what’s important.

We all take our breath for granted. When we are stressed or afraid, the first thing that we do is hold our breath – the very thing that keeps us alive. The exercises that Katrina & Alan show us in this book are very effective in helping to deal with a myriad of problems. There are exercises to calm the breath and also to energize. Told within the context of Katrina’s life, they are very effective and I believe, very useful for us all.

19. Enlightenment for Idiots

by Anne Cushman
started 4/20 finished 5/3
Perfect world Toni would get up at 4 a.m every morning to meditate and do several Sun Salutations to energize her and prepare her for her day (which she would navigate effortlessly with no stress).
Real life Toni rolls out of bed at 5:20, hops in the shower, throws on clothes, puts her hair in a ponytail (that’s it; thank the Goddess for dreadlocks!), and is out of the house at 5:50 to catch her train. (Although real life Toni got up at 4:30 this morning, not to meditate, but to watch the weather ’cause a couple of tornadoes was rolling through. She was able to get out of the apartment at 5:45 only to find a man asleep in front of the door across the hall – he explained that he was waiting for “Mr. Johnson to come home.” Whatever, I told him to remain out of the tornado and kept stepping.)
So, I said all that to say, that I read a lot about yoga and especially enjoy fiction that revolves around the subject. You can read all of the how-to and yogic philosophy books you can but novels give you insight into how people fit the practice and theories in their everyday lives. Cushman, a real live yoga teacher, spins the tale of Amanda, a first year yoga teacher and freelance writer. She writes mainly for a series of books “for Idiots”, similar to the Dummies guides. Her editor, wanting to cash in on the current yoga craze going on in the US, assigns her to write a book for the series on Enlightenment, naively thinking that it is something that you can achieve in a few months (it took the Buddha, like, forever!). Amanda, eager to end a back and forth relationship with her “boyfriend”, takes her up on the offer and heads to India to do her research.
She crosses the path of an bi-polar, celibate, expatriate named Devi Das and soon they are going from guru to guru to find the meaning of enlightenment. Amanda soon finds out she is pregnant by the man she has tried to put behind her and the trip takes on new meaning.
Just like the character Mara in Stuck in Downward Dog, Amanda finds herself at a crossroads in her life, as many of us do. While some turn to drugs, sex, food and other dangerous escapes, these characters are able to use their existing yoga practice to look within and find the answers and redemption that they need. One reviewer on Amazon.com called this book “Bridget Jones Diary meets Eat, Pray, Love”, and I couldn’t agree more.

Health Resolutions 2008

In addition to the standard medical & dental check-ups, I want to do the following:

  • Lose 50 lbs by the end of the year. Women’s Health magazine (one of my favorites; I am a magazine addict) has put out a book called the Perfect Body Diet. I read through it (as I do all diet books) and while I decided that it wasn’t for me, I did take the test to determine what my ideal weight should be. According to my height (5’9″) and body frame (medium; determined by measuring my wrist), I should be 145 lbs. Yes, that means that I am currently 195 lbs. There! I said it! Talk amongst yourselves.
  • Exercise. I don’t have an exercise habit at all. The only reason that I am not substantially heavier is because I don’t drive and walk to and from the train and I walk a lot during the day at my job. I currently subscribe to the following health & exercise magazines: Shape, Fitness, Self, and Women’s Health. I have lots of exercise dvds. I just don’t do it. I must start. I am working on a viable, simple plan.
  • Practice yoga. The physical and spiritual aspects appeal to me.
  • Cut back on sugar. I am a sugar addict and rarely does a day go by without it. I have already started eating more fruit to give me the sweet taste without the blood sugar issues.
  • Drink more water. Compared to most Americans, I already drink a lot. I am not getting 8 glasses, though.
  • Eat more fresh vegetables. Again, compared to most Americans, I eat a lot, but more won’t hurt.

I think these are goals that are attainable. I am giving myself a whole year to lose the weight!!

54. Stuck In Downward Dog

by Chantel Simmons

started 12/6 finished 12/8

One of my resolutions for next year is to become a yogini. I have always had an interest in yoga and the wisdom that surrounds it. Although I can’t currently afford to take classes, I have several books & DVDs at home and access to many more from Netflix – so I don’t really have an excuse not to begin a practice.

After the last 3 books I read, I wanted to lose myself in something lighter. What better way to escape than in chick lit. I walked by this book on display in my store for a couple weeks before I finally picked it up. I was not disappointed (you can tell a book by its cover).

Do you know (or have been a part of) a group of friends where one person looks like they don’t belong? For instance, 2 of them have fabulous jobs, boyfriends, bodies and seem to have everything on the ball, but the third one just seems to be hanging on to her life by a thread? That third girl is Mara Brennan. She and her two friends have grown up together and now as adults their bonding continues in yoga class (her friends in expensive yoga outfits, Mara in sweats). After returning home to her dark basement apartment from her dead-end job as a receptionist for a plastic surgeon, she finds movers carrying her boyfriends furniture and belongings out and into a truck. While getting her signature on the manifest the truck driver informs her that she is being dumped.

Finally fed up, she decides to redefine herself my making an “OM list” with which she will re-invent herself as a perfect cook, friend, & housekeeper. Of course, it all goes awry and she is forced to make some real changes in her life.

Filled with yoga philosophy, beauty tips (to avoid plastic surgery) and the meaning of true friendship, this is the perfect escape read for those of you who are harried this time of year.