Reading dates: 09 – 21 October 2016
Breathing is my current favourite subject to learn about. Since I began practicing breath control techniques in April 2015, I became aware of the power that we carry within us. I read this book for my yoga teacher training course, as I had to write an essay on the benefits of the complete yoga breath. This short guide is wonderfully written, accessible, simple but deep and very well argued. It has given me a lot of knowledge about how the respiratory system works. It has a whole chapter on the functioning of the nose. When I came to it, I thought: ‘here we go … who cares about the nose?’ only to be proved wrong as it was one of the most fascinating chapters. The mechanics of our body are endlessly mesmerising and I became a little obsessed by the function of the turbinates (we all have them, they are amazing). The book is balanced, with both Eastern and Western thought on the issue of breathing, written with authority as a simple, practical guide to help us make the most of the only involuntary and voluntary bodily process we have. As Neil Scott wrote in the last issue of New Escapologist, breathing is the number one key to productivity. Swami Rama, Rudolph Ballentine and Alan Hymes argue that it also plays an essential part in maintaining physical and mental health, controlling emotions and allowing change to happen. After this, who wouldn’t want to work on their breathing?
If you are in Glasgow and want to learn more about pranayama (yogic breath control techniques), I am leading a couple of self practices in November at the Arlington Baths in the West End: Tuesday 22 November, 07.30–08.15am and Wednesday 30 November 18.30–19.15 (£2). It is better if you have had some experience of yoga, for breath control is an advanced practice. If you have no experience of yoga and are curious about pranayama, do drop me an email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Tuesday morning session is followed by Rosina Bonsu’s Breathing Bones class (08.15–09.30). The Wednesday afternoon session is preceded by Breathing Bones (17.15–18.30). This is a fantastic programme suitable for all. You get the benefits of the breath, coupled with simple, very effective stretches of the body. I will be there!
Reading dates: 25 June – 16 October 2016
Although the narrative does not quite reach the excitement of the first volume, I came to read this second volume completely hooked to the story. This part deals with the war and its aftermaths and I really got into the descriptions of battle formations, into the drudgery of these 18 days of blood shedding and cleansing. Volume 2 also contains the Bhagavad Gita, one of the most mysterious and beautiful texts I have ever read (and which hopefully I will understand better by the time I finish my yoga teacher training). I read the Gita on a beach in Crete and I know I will always remember that reading experience, what it said to me, what I felt and where I was. It was one of those deeply spiritual moments which shift something inside, a subtle change of direction, only of a millimetre to start with, but which set me of on a different path altogether, as I now realise.
The Mahabharata is still one of the most incredible stories I have read: well crafted, dramatic, with interesting characters and a coherent message. Even the very end is fitting. Not a single line has disappointed me and Ramesh Menon’s rendition just made it accessible and fun. I am not sure what a more ancient version would have been like but Menon was certainly not hard work. I hope to read it again, all of it, for I miss the Pandavas and Krishna’s smile, already.