As winter has firmly descended upon us, I find this is the perfect time to hunker down in cozy, comfortable clothes (preferably yoga pants), with a warm beverage, and dive into books that I’ve intended to read, only half-read, or have loved enough to re-read. I’m thoroughly a fiction lover, and to be honest, self-help books are not really my thing, but I’m currently in the middle of exploring 3 yoga books, written by women, with a woman’s perspective, each offering a very personal perspective on the practice of yoga.
Yoga For Life – A Journey to Inner Peace and Freedom by Colleen Saidman Yee
I received this book a couple of years ago from a good friend who picked it up at a Wanderlust Festival. Shortly thereafter, I got a signed copy when I attended a workshop offered by Colleen and her husband Rodney at Evenflow Yoga in Red Bank and gifted my unsigned book to another yogi who I knew would appreciate it. I read it cover to cover within a couple of weeks and now am far enough removed from it to want to revisit it. The overarching theme of the book is “You are enough.”
The book recounts Colleen’s turbulent life, addicted to heroin at a young age, working as a globe-trotting fashion model, volunteering for Mother Theresa in India, surviving a lightning strike only to succumb to a seizure disorder (which she still suffers from), and ultimately finding peace through her yoga practice and teaching. Each chapter includes specific practices with illustrated step-by-step instructions that address issues ranging from mood swings to detoxing, grief, depression and stress that correspond to specific junctures of Colleen’s life.
Favorite quote from the book: “Yoga allows me to surf the ripples and sit with the mud, while catching glimpses of the clarity of my home at the bottom of the lake: my true self.”
Deep Listening – A Healing Practice to Calm Your Body, Clear Your Mind, and Open Your Heart by Jillian Pransky
This is another one that I picked up from attending a yoga workshop (yes, I go to a lot of them) – this time a Restorative Yoga workshop with Jillian (at Elevate Yoga in Hazlet). Jillian’s premise is that stress is at the root of much of our fatigue, burnout, anxiety, addiction and illness. By cultivating deep listening skills, paying close attention to our body, mind and heart, we can confront our stress differently and tap into inner resources that allow us to respond calmly, clearly and wisely. Jillian was an over-achiever and initially loved yoga for its physicality, until she had her first panic attack and learned to spend more time “being” rather than “doing”.
Each chapter includes a number of daily practices to engage in that serve to cultivate our deep listening skills, including contemplation, meditation, simple yoga poses, restorative postures and journaling exercises.
Favorite quote: “Not only can we offer ourselves a do-over every day, but doing so is truly the essence of what our practice is all about.”
Fearless After Fifty – How to Thrive with Grace, Grit and Yoga by Desiree Rumbaugh and Michelle Marchildon
I picked this book up shortly after my retirement, having been exposed to Desiree’s Wisdom Warrior workshops in the past and finding validation that you can continue to have a strong yoga practice well into your “senior” years. Admittedly, I only had a chance to browse this book before it got lost in a pile of books that I intend to get to soon. I picked it up again after a recent Yogaland podcast that featured the two co-authors. I was a little ruffled by the fact that they used 50 as a defining age for the aging yogi since I really didn’t begin a serious yoga practice until I was nearly 50, but loved the concept that yoga can be more than just a gentle stretching practice for the yogi who is more advanced in age. I’ve just started to dive into this book, but it offers a treasure trove of advice on how to approach not just yoga, but your entire life, with grace and grit as you begin to age, accepting that your body is changing but not letting that define you. There are specific instructions on yoga poses and sequences, but also practical ideas on how to keep yourself engaged and exuberant
Favorite quote: “Be willing to look silly. Our culture ties pride to appearance. When children play, the last thing on their minds is how they look. Make joy more important than your image, and you’ll inspire others to find joy, too.”
Pick these books up if you want to learn more about yoga, want a reference guide for your home practice, or just want to hear a unique voice on the practice of yoga. Perhaps what appeals to me most about these three books, is that each of the authors came to yoga for a different reason, but they all credit yoga for having saved them in one way or another, and have drawn deeply from their own experiences to share their love of the practice.