July 2015 archive

Review: Yoga for Emotional Balance


From Andrea—-For my Yoga Teacher Training (YTT), one of my homework assignments was to read and review a yoga-related book. I thought I’d share here :)

Summary: This book specifically addresses how breathwork and yoga can help alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety. Forbes explains in detail how the two conditions can exist in tandem, while having opposite effects on the body. She touches on the prevalent use of antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications, and how they are often taken together with both beneficial and contradictory effects

Forbes breaks down her book into two parts: The Path to Emotional Balance and Breathwork and Restorative Yoga. The first part is then broken down into five sections: Understanding Anxiety & Depression, What Gets in the Way of Change, How True Healing Happens, Five Ways to Transform Your Emotional Patterns, and Finding Meaning in Anxiety & Depression. Each of these five chapters shares anecdotal stories and explanations of the topic from Forbes’ psychotherapy and yoga sessions. The chapters each end with a breath work exercise. Each exercise begins with establishing a baseline, doing the breathwork (1:1, 1:2, etc) and noticing the difference after the practice.

The second part of the book focuses completely on determining your emotional style and developing a Restorative Yoga practice based on that. There is Anxious Mind/Anxious Body, Depressed Mind/Depressed Body, Anxious Mind/Depressed Body, and Depressed Mind/Anxious Body.

Review: I found this book to be very enlightening and applicable to my own life.( I especially like the anecdotal method of explanation, as I was a bit concerned that a book by a PsyD would be rather clinical). You can tell that Forbes genuinely lives her yoga, and isn’t out to make a buck off people looking for a quick fix. In fact, at the very beginning of the book she tells the reader that they can either read the chapters or not, but that the heart of the “cure” is in the practice, and in consistent practice at that. She acknowledges that reading the book in its entirety, combined with consistent practice, would be the most beneficial method, but really stresses the breathwork above all.

Forbes is able to explain the effects of the breath on the mind and body in an easy-to-understand manner. She suggests a 1:1 breath to maintain a calm, balanced mind, or a 1:2 breath to calm a racing, anxious mind.

I think this book would be beneficial to offer to anyone who struggles with anxiety and/or depression, provided they are open to the commitment of steady and consistent practice vs a quick fix.

Review: White House Diary

White House Diary by Jimmy Carter

From Goodreads: Each day during his presidency, Jimmy Carter made several entries in a private diary, recording his thoughts, impressions, delights, and frustrations. He offered unvarnished assessments of cabinet members, congressmen, and foreign leaders; he narrated the progress of secret negotiations such as those that led to the Camp David Accords. When his four-year term came to an end in early 1981, the diary amounted to more than five thousand pages. But this extraordinary document has never been made public–until now.

By carefully selecting the most illuminating and relevant entries, Carter has provided us with an astonishingly intimate view of his presidency. Day by day, we see his forceful advocacy for nuclear containment, sustainable energy, human rights, and peace in the Middle East. We witness his interactions with such complex personalities as Ted Kennedy, Henry Kissinger, Joe Biden, Anwar Sadat, and Menachem Begin. We get the inside story of his so-called “malaise speech,” his bruising battle for the 1980 Democratic nomination, and the Iranian hostage crisis. Remarkably, we also get Carter’s retrospective comments on these topics and more: thirty years after the fact, he has annotated the diary with his candid reflections on the people and events that shaped his presidency, and on the many lessons learned.

Carter is now widely seen as one of the truly wise men of our time. Offering an unprecedented look at both the man and his tenure, this fascinating book will stand as a unique contribution to the history of the American presidency.

Jennie’s Thoughts: I admit, I didn’t know much about Jimmy Carter before I read this book. When I cracked it open, the first thing I thought was how our lives would’ve been impacted if we were peanut farmers like Jimmy Carter when we discovered our daughter had a peanut allergy. And, after a bit on pondering and such, I started reading, and then I discovered I kind of really liked Carter.

The format of this one was interesting, but overall I really liked it. Each chapter was a year, with (mostly) daily entries. Some of the entries were small, some were pages long. I wasn’t a fan of the chapters lasting an entire year though, because that made putting it down awkward. I like ending on a chapter, or at least at the end of a page with a complete sentence.

Seeing the names of recent/current White House administrations appear in this and the last few biographies, is eery and cool. I plan on reading some of Carter’s more recent books once I’m done with the challenge, because he seems like a genuine guy looking to make the world better, especially post-Presidency.

Review: Dead Wake

Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania by Erik Larson

From Goodreads: On May 1, 1915, with WWI entering its tenth month, a luxury ocean liner as richly appointed as an English country house sailed out of New York, bound for Liverpool, carrying a record number of children and infants. The passengers were surprisingly at ease, even though Germany had declared the seas around Britain to be a war zone. For months, German U-boats had brought terror to the North Atlantic. But the Lusitania was one of the era’s great transatlantic “Greyhounds”—the fastest liner then in service—and her captain, William Thomas Turner, placed tremendous faith in the gentlemanly strictures of warfare that for a century had kept civilian ships safe from attack.

Germany, however, was determined to change the rules of the game, and Walther Schwieger, the captain of Unterseeboot-20, was happy to oblige. Meanwhile, an ultra-secret British intelligence unit tracked Schwieger’s U-boat, but told no one. As U-20 and the Lusitania made their way toward Liverpool, an array of forces both grand and achingly small—hubris, a chance fog, a closely guarded secret, and more—all converged to produce one of the great disasters of history.

It is a story that many of us think we know but don’t, and Erik Larson tells it thrillingly, switching between hunter and hunted while painting a larger portrait of America at the height of the Progressive Era. Full of glamour and suspense, Dead Wake brings to life a cast of evocative characters, from famed Boston bookseller Charles Lauriat to pioneering female architect Theodate Pope to President Woodrow Wilson, a man lost to grief, dreading the widening war but also captivated by the prospect of new love.

Gripping and important, Dead Wake captures the sheer drama and emotional power of a disaster whose intimate details and true meaning have long been obscured by history.

Jennie’s Thoughts: I loved Larson’s In The Garden of Beasts, but I only liked The Devil In The White City, so I wasn’t sure where I would fall on this one. But, let me tell you right now, that I LOVED this book.

I was gripped from page one, my interest never waning. A few times I had to put the book down because the suspense was too intense. A non-fiction book! I mean, we all know how the story ends…the ship sinks! And still, I was so intrigued by the who and the what and the people that I had to take a moment to breathe.

Having just read the string of Presidential biographies during this time frame, I was double-obsessed with the pieces that Larson added in regarding the war and Truman. And, I’m going to be looking to read some more about the German U-boat program because, one book is just not enough for me.

I can’t rave about this book enough! Read it! And then we can talk!

Review: Gerald R. Ford

Gerald R. Ford (The American Presidents #38) by Douglas G. Brinkley

From Goodreads: The “accidental” president whose innate decency and steady hand restored the presidency after its greatest crisis
When Gerald R. Ford entered the White House in August 1974, he inherited a presidency tarnished by the Watergate scandal, the economy was in a recession, the Vietnam War was drawing to a close, and he had taken office without having been elected. Most observers gave him little chance of success, especially after he pardoned Richard Nixon just a month into his presidency, an action that outraged many Americans, but which Ford thought was necessary to move the nation forward.
Many people today think of Ford as a man who stumbled a lot–clumsy on his feet and in politics–but acclaimed historian Douglas Brinkley shows him to be a man of independent thought and conscience, who never allowed party loyalty to prevail over his sense of right and wrong. As a young congressman, he stood up to the isolationists in the Republican leadership, promoting a vigorous role for America in the world. Later, as House minority leader and as president, he challenged the right wing of his party, refusing to bend to their vision of confrontation with the Communist world. And after the fall of Saigon, Ford also overruled his advisers by allowing Vietnamese refugees to enter the United States, arguing that to do so was the humane thing to do.
Brinkley draws on exclusive interviews with Ford and on previously unpublished documents (including a remarkable correspondence between Ford and Nixon stretching over four decades), fashioning a masterful reassessment of Gerald R. Ford’s presidency and his underappreciated legacy to the nation.

Jennie’s Thoughts: That GR summary is almost as long as the entire book! I’ll be honest, I picked the shortest book because as I come into the last presidents, I’ve got a fair amount of long biographies to read. And last month’s Nixon book was thick. I think this Ford biography gave me the best of both worlds: new information and short enough that I didn’t strain my wrist while holding it.

I found the portions regarding Nixon’s pardon to be especially insightful. I have come to feel like while Ford was a good president, I think he might’ve been even better in Congress. At least, in the aspect that it felt like Ford enjoyed (if that’s a word to be used in government, ha!) being a Congressman more than President.

That said, this biography was pretty decent. Nothing blow you out of the water, but not horribly mundane or dry either.

Review: Creative Schools

From Goodreads: Ken Robinson is one of the world’s most influential voices in education, and his 2006 TED Talk on the subject is the most viewed in the organization’s history. Now, the internationally recognized leader on creativity and human potential focuses on one of the most critical issues of our time: how to transform the nation’s troubled educational system. At a time when standardized testing businesses are raking in huge profits, when many schools are struggling, and students and educators everywhere are suffering under the strain, Robinson points the way forward. He argues for an end to our outmoded industrial educational system and proposes a highly personalized, organic approach that draws on today’s unprecedented technological and professional resources to engage all students, develop their love of learning, and enable them to face the real challenges of the twenty-first century. Filled with anecdotes, observations and recommendations from professionals on the front line of transformative education, case histories, and groundbreaking research—and written with Robinson’s trademark wit and engaging style—Creative Schools will inspire teachers, parents, and policy makers alike to rethink the real nature and purpose of education.

Erin’s Thoughts: I feel it’s only fair to start this review by stating that I am a Ken Robinson fangirl.  Seriously.  Once he retweeted me and I spent the rest of the day beaming.  FANGIRL.  I first came to Ken Robinson’s thoughts on education in this short video:

Are you swooning?  That short video led me to his famous TED talk, which is absolutely worth you time and which I’d recommend watching before picking up this book.

Oh yes.  The book.  This post isn’t just about which videos to watch and swoon over.  Suffice it to say that being not only a huge Ken Robinson fan but also a complete geek over all things education, I was extremely excited about this book.  I’m very happy to say that it did not disappoint.  I was a tad worried that it would be a lot of regurgitation of what I’ve already heard and read from Robinson, but rather than repeat himself, Robinson refers you to his previous works and instead focuses on the research and philosophies behind driving educational change.  Robinson shares his ideas on how and why to make schools more individualized and less standardized through the way we teach, the way we test, the way we lead, and the way we partner with parents.  Like me, Robinson is a staunch critic of the fact that our current education system is based on the system developed during the industrial revolution to turn out workers who knew basic facts and could work on an assembly line.  This is no longer the world we live in and hasn’t been for some time.  Robinson comes out strongly against standards and standardized testing, and while in many ways I agree with him, I’d caution readers to read carefully and not just grab your pitchforks against the Common Core.  Certainly, there is work to be done there, but it’s important to remember that standards are meant to provide a progression of learning that teachers, students, and families can use to guide next steps in learning.  They aren’t meant to turn out cookie cutter children, even though that is unfortunately how they are often used.  This is a fairly friendly book even if you know little about the state of public education. Robinson shares a number of anecdotes from schools all over the world who are working to change education.  He is also careful to point out that his ideas aren’t anything new — a great number of educators such as Lev Vygotsky, Maria Montessori, and John Dewey have been talking about individualized education for centuries. Robinson’s book is about the urgent need for change in our schools.  I highly recommend it.

My favorite quote from the entire book is, “the best place to start thinking about how to change education is exactly where you are in it.”  It’s become my new motto!  Read this and think about how you might start to influence change in your schools.