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Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Yoga for Wellness

Kraftsow, Gary. Yoga for Wellness.

Gary Kraftsow, founder of the American Viniyoga Institute, teaches in the lineage of Krishnamacharya and Desikachar and is well-known in the world of yoga.

An overview with points I like or consider important:

Part I Yoga: A Developmental Approach

Chapter 1: Principles of Practice

- in discussing the form/function problem concerning the relationship between classical form and practical function of postures: "The true value of these postures lies in their functional benefit to our own body, not [emphasis mine] in the objective character of their classical form."

- a great section on why we adapt postures and various explanations and photos that illustrate adaptations

-methods of adapting the breath to "deepen the practice and produce different effects."

- information about using sound and props and on sequencing.

Chapter 2: Biomechanics of Movement

- the primary and secondary intentions of movements

- postures are discussed and there are plenty of photos that illustrate problems in postures, as well as info on common risks and sequencing

Part II Yoga Cikitsa: An Introduction to Yoga Therapy

- The orientation of tradional medicine is "to treat the disease; the Yoga orientation is to treat the person. In Yoga therapy, therefore, we are first and foremost seeking to change attitudes and actions tha inhibit the natural healing process."

- "Viyoga literally means separation. In the context of Yoga therapy, Viyoga refers to the process of separating ourselves from whatever is undesirable in our lives." It is a process of elimation and "includes letting go of unhealthy attachments, giving up self-destructive behavior, and breaking detrimental relationships."

-"Samyoga literally means linking together. In the context of Yoga therapy, Samyoga refers to the process of linking to whatever is positive and productive in our lives. It involves the development of mental qualities such as kindness, courage, patience, and compassion. It also involves establishing appropriate priorities, practicing virtues, and cultivating positive relationships."

- "Our health problems may be related to congenital factors; patterns acquired in early childhood; the result of an accident, an unhealthy lifestyle, chronic stress; or any combination of these or other factors."

The 3 chapters in Part II, deal with Common Aches and Pains, Chronic Disease, and Emotional Health. Kraftsow frequently points out that in many situations, the practitioner will need to see a doctor in order to combine the benefits of traditional medicine and Yoga. The chapters cover in some detail the various systems of the body (skeletal, muscular, digestive, respiratory, etc.) and various asana sequences developed to deal with specific problems.

This is another book that is informative on many levels. Kraftsow is thorough and the book is full of practical knowledge and inspiration. Another great reference!

Nonfiction. Yoga. 1999. 328 pages.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Problems

I've written several reviews and scheduled them to post over the next week. All of them seem to be working except for the one I just finished. Each time I try to schedule it, it posts immediately. Hmmm. Will save as a draft for the present and move on to the next review.

I'm trying to get ready to leave for Austin and want all of my reviews completed. We will be leaving on July 7, and I have so many things to take care of before then.

And the July 4th weekend is coming up; we can't forget or neglect that celebration! We will be going down to the cabin for food and fun.

Revelation

Sansom C.J. Revelation.

I've only read one other of these novels featuring Matthew Shardlake, but I really like the series and intend to read them all eventually.

Set in Tudor England, the first novel Dissolution deals with Henry VIII's determination to dissolve the monasteries and rid England of all papist taint. This novel takes place after the dissolution of the monasteries, but during a time when Henry seems to want "his" church to be Catholic without the pope. The problem is that the reformists (many of them having become zealous radicals) have no intention of going back, and Henry can be brutal concerning resistance to his will.

When Matthew Shardlake's good friend is murdered, he promises the widow that he will discover the murderer. What he doesn't realize at the time is that this is not the first murder and that he will be drawn again into political and religious matters that can prove deadly.

Sansom has the ability to bring the period and his characters to life even as the reader discovers much about history. I thoroughly enjoy the characters and the history of the turbulent times.

I had a few quibbles about the plot, but that didn't stop me from becoming completely immersed in the novel, the characters, and the danger of trying to walk the fine line between integrity and self-preservation. I really want to read the other two novels in this series!

(Interesting historic characters involved in the novel: Thomas Cranmer, Edward & Thomas Seymour, Catherine Parr; historic tidbits about the reform movement, what became of the monks, Bedlam, and false teeth.)

Other Reviews: Nancy Pearl and Books Please. If you reviewed it, let me know and I'll post a link.

Fiction. Historical fiction/mystery. 2009. 550 pages.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Yoga Mind, Body and Spirit

Farhi, Donna. Yoga Mind, Body and Spirit.

Part One: Groundwork covers a definition of yoga, the principles of yoga (the Yamas and Niyamas), an explanation of asanas and their purpose, and Farhi's Seven Moving Principles.

Some points and passages that I especially liked:

- "the practice is the reward"

- "yoga is both the means and the result, and the seed of all that is possible is present at the beginning"

- on asteya (not stealing) - "all misappropriation is a an expression of lack" and "The practice of asteya asks us to be careful not to take anything that is not freely given." (she goes on to explain that taking someone's ideas or time is a form of misappropriation)

- on santosha (contentment) - "Contentment also should not be confused with complacency, in which we allow ourselves to stagnate in our growth," and "Contentment not only implies acceptance of the present but tends to generate the capacity for hopefulness."

Farhi also covers the Neuroendocrine System, the Organ System, the Fluid System, the Cellular System, the Nervous System, and the Musculoskeletal System. She lists their attributes, structure and qualities and how to engage each system.

Part Two: The Yoga Asanas includes how to practice the asanas, considerations to keep in mind, essential skills, and how to incorporate the "Seven Moving Principles." There are separate sections on the standing postures, the sitting postures, backbends, arm balances & inversions, and restorative postures & breathing practices.

Part Three: Practice discusses sequencing, general and thematic practices, transitional movements, counterposes, and gives several possibles sequences for beginner, intermediate, and advanced practioners.

This is an excellent book by a registered movement therapist and renowned and respected yoga teacher. The book is practical and inspirational. I finished it about 2 weeks ago and have already referred to it many times!

Nonfiction. Yoga. 2000. 270 pages.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Angel's Game

Zafon, Carlos Ruiz. The Angel's Game.

Evidently many were eagerly awaiting this novel's translation into English. By the author of Shadow of the Wind, The Angel's Game is both a stand-alone novel and a prequel/sequel/parallel universe/or something. Since I had not read The Shadow of the Wind, I read this advanced reader's copy as a stand-alone. It has taken me a long time to get around to this review.

Initially, I thought I'd love it. The prose is lyrical, smart, and often witty. My only quarrel with the translator is that there are many phrases that are contemporary and the novel is set in Barcelona in the twenties and thirties. Nevertheless, the prose flows, the descriptions of Barcelona are vivid, the gothic elements are, at first, quite suspenseful.

My initial hopes for the novel did not hold up. The gothic elements lost suspense, the characters were, for the most part, not too likable. I did like some of the minor characters, but David, the narrator and main character, became less and less likable. Not that you hated him, but more like...who cares, you dimwit.

His relationship with Christina was always so nebulous and undeveloped that his love/obsession was a bit puzzling. Isabella was much more 3 dimensional, alive, vibrant.

The novel was too long to maintain the suspense, there were frequent build-ups, but they kind of sizzled out. The last of the book was full of murders that just seemed unnecessary and strangely, kind of boring. Conclusion? Ahhh, none...because it is a prequel/sequel/parallel universe or something.

Reviews of the novel that I found were mostly positive, although several of Zafon's fans were disappointed. Here are some opinions at GoodReads. Note all the stars. In spite of the excellent prose, I would give it only 1 star, but again, I'm in the minority. Nice cover, though.

This one was not for me. Really.

Fiction. Mystery/Gothic/Supernatural. 2009. 370 pages.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

What's Up with This New Trend?

How do you feel about the new trend of putting a bunch of requirements on a give-away offer--or saying you get more than one entry if you add a link, twitter, post on face book, add a widget, AND blah, blah, blah?

I'm more than willing to add a link or share offers, etc. but the self-aggrandizement and merchandising aspect of all these "qualifications" annoys me. I find this more and more on both book and craft blogs, but maybe I'm alone in my curmudgeonly feelings.

I found this wonderful link to Book Seer (you enter a book you've read, and it gives you a suggestion about what to read next) on Cathy's blog, Kittling: Books. She had lots of interesting links today, but this is the one I'm going to play with right now.

Yeah, yeah. I need to review books, but just don't feel like it. Maybe later.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Journals and Embroidery

I ordered another journal from Iliana and can't wait to write on these creamy pages! Beautiful, isn't it? The birdies feel right at home in my garden. You can visit her Etsy Shop, Bookgirl's Studio, and browse through some of her beautiful handmade journals.
(click pictures to enlarge)
I've finished my latest embroidered tee shirt and am playing with designs on linen. I draw the design with a water soluble pen, then keep adding on as I go.Details from other tee shirts and embroidered pieces from the last month.Books? I've got a bunch of yoga books that I've finished and need to review. One advanced reader's copy to review and several more to read. I've begun and discarded several library books that turned out to be mistakes.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

World Made by Hand

Kunstler, James Howard. World Made by Hand.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I enjoy post-apocalyptic novels and imagining how civilized society would cope with the loss of the technology we take for granted. Forget about computers, telephones, television, and our instant communication and entertainment luxuries and think about water and electricity. Neither of these would be automatically available with the turn of a tap or flip of the switch.

Kunstler imagines a world that has learned to cope (as best it can) with the loss of technology in the aftermath of several rather vague disasters including bombings, loss of access to oil, financial and governmental collapse, and a deadly flu pandemic (oddly enough, called the Mexican Flu).

The small town of Union Grove in upstate New York is one of the isolated communities trying to function after having lost most of their conveniences and a high per centage of their population. The protagonist, Robert Earle seems pretty well-adjusted to the state of things, although even he misses the occasional cold beer.

When a group called the New Faith order arrives in town, Robert and Union Grove must begin further adjustments. Here is where the novel becomes unpredictable (in several ways). Brother Jobe, the leader of the New Faith group, throws several wrenches into the town's ways of thinking and doing things. In spite of his namesake, the original Job, Brother Jobe doesn't seem to be suffering any more, and actually, considerably less, than any other survivor.

In addition to the fact that the New Faith people add an unpredictable factor into the events, there is an unpredictable aspect or atmosphere in the feel of the novel. Initially, Brother Jobe's arrival feels ominous, adding a sense of dread. Then there is an almost comical feel to the presence of the group and its members. At times, the group seems perfectly normal. This ominous/normal emotional charge moves back and forth about the kind of changes the group represents for the citizens of Union Grove.

Although I was a little nitpicky about some of the post-apocalyptic details, the first of the book was pretty interesting. However, toward the end, things got downright weird. Some supernatural stuff kind of crept in without ever being explained. It was as if Kunstler was going somewhere with several strange events, and then decided to leave them hanging.

Many of the characters, especially the women, had little development, and the novel's direction never seemed quite clear to me. Quite a few events, characters, and situations were introduced without attempt at resolution:

-why the emphasis on the young woman accompanying Brother Jobe when he arrived in town, to have her appear only once more and without emphasis?
-why did Brother Jobe feel Bullock was a dangerous man?
-why was Bullock's industry so questionable? (he seemed the one most capable of building a future, but the author appears to frown on him)
-both Bullock and Brother Jobe are leaders, does the author favor Brother Jobe?
-what the heck with the bee hive analogy?--boy, was that left hanging!
-and the prophecy?
-why was the treatment of Loren so brutal and of Robert so mild?
-what about the mystery of Brother Jobe and the jail cell?
-Bridget and Jane Ann?

There was never a point that I wanted to put the book down, but there was never a point that I didn't have questions. None of them were answered.

I'm glad I read the book because it has provided several days of pondering, not only about what was going on in the novel, but about the adjustments society would have to make to survive if society's infrastructure collapsed. Not just the physical difficulties of food and water and basic survival, but in social organization, how would isolated societies function?

In many ways, this was a pretty positive look at the future, at least in comparison to The Road, Alas, Babylon, Lucifer's Hammer, and I, Legend.

I could have sworn I read something about this novel on one of the blogs I visit frequently, but I couldn't find it.

Do you have a favorite post-apocalytic novel?

Other Reviews: Where There's a Will..., Reading Is My Superpower, Sublime Oblivion, Fizzy Thoughts, The Indextrious Reader

Fiction. Futuristic/Post-Apocalypse. 2008. 317 pages.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

A Stopover in Venice (addendum)

Walker, Kathryn. A Stopover in Venice.

Cornelia, on tour with her musician husband, decides she has had enough, and impulsively, steps off the train en route to his next venue. Alone in Venice and caught between despair over her unhappy marriage and anger at her husband, Cornelia gets a room at the Hotel Gritti Palace.

After a long rest, she decides to take advantage of the time to explore the city. In her wanderings, she discovers some boys harassing a small dog. Cornelia rescues the tiny Chihuahua, names him Leo, and forms an immediate and strong bond. He lifts her spirit and her courage, and she imagines him hers, smuggling him into the hotel. Leo then accompanies Cornelia on her perambulations through Venice.

Until, that is, a stranger accosts her in the street asking about the dog. Leo, he explains, belongs to an elderly contessa who is heartbroken by his loss. Cornelia, while devastated at having to give up her companion, returns Leo to the delighted contessa. As events transpire, the contessa invites Cornelia to spend the night, and further adventures ensue.

Matteo, a restorationist, has been working on a fresco discovered under modern plaster that may have been painted by a famous master of the early 16th century. Here begins a parallel narrative concerning the painter and the fresco, involving Cornelia, Matteo, and the contessa as they research the painter, the house itself, and a convent.

Restoration becomes a mystery, an investigation, a motif--but is Cornelia restored to herself?
---------addendum------

Interesting -- Just discovered (after Nancy & Nicole tried to pin me down on an opinion of the novel) that the novel may be a Roman a` clef. Check out this article about who the famous musician husband really is!

Other Reviews: The Preppy Yogini and Read Around the World

Fiction. Historical mystery. 2008. 306 pages.

Wasting Away...

not in Margaritaville, however. Although a nice, cooling sip of Margarita would be appreciated in this heat! Well, yes, I mean more than a sip, but "sitting on a bar stool in a cool, dim bar and swilling Margarita's" didn't sound as good.

I've been doing a lot of very little lately. A little this and a little that in a pretty apathetic way. Reading some, embroidering tee shirts, less and less in the garden, etc.

I've continued my yoga studies, though. Currently reading Yoga for Wellness, Yoga for Body, Breath, and Mind and other books on my reading list. I find myself contemplating a statement about a posture or its benefits and then picking up other books for comparison. I'm really hoping some of this is beginning to take root in my brain.

Some fiction, too. I've still got to review A Stopover in Venice and A World Made by Hand.

The latter has given me some pause over the last few days as it was kind of peculiar toward the end, and I find myself wondering what I really thought about it. Does that happen to you? You read and enjoy a book while in the process, but when finished, you aren't really sure what you think?

Evaluating a book is often difficult, and the same book can mean different things at different times. On the whole, I love post-apocalyptic, dystopic society books. They are terrifying, but always make me wonder how far back in time society would be thrust if the entire infrastructure fell (or was blasted) away.

For the same reason that I loved Robinson Crusoe as a child, I enjoy thinking of the ways modern mankind would adjust to a society left with only medieval technology. What alternative futures could result from reversals in nature and/or human foolishness?

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Cecilian Vespers

Emery, Anne. Cecilian Vespers.

Set in Halifax, Nova Scotia, the novel is the fourth to feature lawyer Monty Collins and his friend Fr. Brennan Burke. Father Burke is the head of a school for traditional church music, the Schola Cantorum Sancta Bernadetta, and the students include both church and lay participants, not all of whom are in favor of tradition. When a well-known German monk is murdered, there are plenty of suspects who either have no alibi or give misleading information.

Although another monk confesses, Monty and Fr. Burke believe the confession to be false and must continue their investigation.

What is most interesting about this mystery is all the information about Vatican II, the subsequent changes in Church positions and policies, and the often intense feelings that remain on both sides of that aisle. Not being Catholic, I found the information about Vatican II fascinating and informative.

I've not read any of the previous novels featuring Monty Collins and Father Burke so I don't know how this one compares, but several complication from the previous novels appear to thread their way through this one.

Fiction. Mystery. 2009. 300 pages.

For Glory


Lee, Elizabeth. For Glory.

Lyle Hudson is a former English teacher and a professional gambler. Nice juxtaposition, eh? Lyle is also fifty, still attractive, and interesting.

There are two mysteries involved in the novel, but neither comes across very well. Elisabeth Lee is good at detail, but there is far too much detail and far too little suspense in either mystery. Nor did either mystery appear truly credible...

I liked Lyle and her aunts, but the plot lines were frequently lost (almost forgotten) and when rediscovered, were disappointing.

Fiction. Mystery. 2006. 333 pages.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Yoga Anatomy

Kaminoff, Leslie. Yoga Anatomy: Your Illustrated Guide to Postures, Movements, and Breathing Techniques.

Yes, this is one of those books that I began months ago and have been reading on and off while reading others -- including the other books for my self-challenge, the fantasy books for Carl's Once Upon a Time Challenge, and many Advanced Reader's Copies.

One of the things I really liked about this book is the pronunciation guide to the Sanskrit names of various asanas and information about the meaning of the terms. Each pose is illustrated with an anatomical guide to the muscles that are in action, which is really interesting and gives insight into the actual workings of the body in the poses.

There is also information about joint and limb action for each pose, the challenges to the respiratory system in different poses and how to use the breath to make the most of the posture, obstacles, cautions, and variations.

The information is pretty technical (which is one reason it took so long to get through it), but it makes an excellent reference tool. I was glad this book was on the reading list as I already owned a copy and had been using it.

When I started taking classes with Marcia, some of the information became more pertinent, as Marcia goes more in depth about the asanas we practice in class.

Nonfiction. Yoga. 2007. 217 pages.