Category Archives: Book Club

Book Club: Misadventures of a Parenting Yogi by Brian Leaf

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Misadventures of a Parenting Yogi Home Image

As I sat in the deck chair in the garden in my Birkenstocks, my 4 month old baby in a mei-tai, I knew I would enjoy this book. The subtitle ‘cloth diapers, cosleeping and my (sometimes sucessful) quest for conscious parenting’ appeals to my (not-so) inner hippie.

I loved Brian’s first book, so when I discovered he was writing one combining yoga with gentle parenting, my ears pricked up. This is a memoir of his parenting journey from pre-conception to starting school. Brian is lucky to live in Northampton, Massachusetts, which sounds like a pretty cool place to live. I must remember to look it up if I ever make it to the States (incidentally, I have some good friends who live in Longmeadow…). Northampton sounds like a hippie-enclave and right up my street. Anyway, I digress.

Brian’s parenting ethos is ‘conscious parenting’, which encompasses attachment / gentle / playful / simplicity parenting. Conscious parenting is responding to your child’s needs in that particular moment, and not being a slave to your own childhood experience or acting out of habit / unconscious motives. There are no star charts, naughty steps or babies left to cry it out here. One of the reasons that this book is so great is that is a memoir and is written by a man. There are lots of ‘parenting advice’ books written by men, but not of the personal-experience variety. Brian is totally ok with saying he worries about his kids / parenting skills / hairy penis (see p.135), which is rather refreshing in today’s often macho competitive world.

For anyone on the path of conscious parenting, or even who is a tiny bit curious, Brian’s book is a great overview of many other books. Dip your toe here to see if it’s for you, then go and read all of the other stuff he mentions – Unconditional Parenting, Playful Parenting, How to Talk so Kids Will Listen…

The book ends with a very brief guide to Ayurveda and how it might influence your parenting. I loved this section in Brian’s first book, and went out and bought various oils with which to embalm myself. I must read more about Ayurveda as it’s so fascinating.

Brian has written a light-hearted, from-the-heart book about alternative parenting, which is laugh-out-loud funny at times. You should read it too. My only criticism? The chapters should be longer!

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Book Club – The Heart of Practice, Understanding Yoga From the Inside

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The Heart of Practice: Understanding Yoga From the Inside by Orit Sen-Gupta

This little book captures my two passions : yoga and Zen Buddhism. The book is divided into chapters on breath, asana, meditating, teaching and dying. The practical chapters resonated with me the most, particuarly the ones on asana, pranayama and sitting. Sen-Gupta’s tone is gentle, her touch light. This is not a manual of instructions, just a book of thoughts by someone who is on The Path, and her views are valuable and considered.

The chapter on death and dying was unexpected and interesting to consider how the ideas in Zen and yoga can apply to end of life situations. Sen-Gupta describes in depth the process of her own father’s death, in an honest and heart-felt way. She also talks about Liat, a new student at one of Sen-Gupta’s yoga classes, who was diagnosed with cancer and how she used yogic practices to pass from life to death. I’d not given much thought to how these Eastern philosophies deal with death and dying, and this was really thought-provoking.

However, there were some things in the book that I stumbled on, such as some slight inconsistencies when Sen-Gupta talks about meditation, such as “practice is the reward”. Zen Master Dogen said that the practice of meditation should be ‘nothing special’, done just for the sake of doing it, rather than for any reward in itself, although I could appreciate the sentiment.

Sen-Gupta does make some sweeping statements, such as “In India most people are religious and express their devotion to God”. I struggled with these, as no citation or supporting evidence is given. There were also some confusing mixing of ideologies which were not clear to me, “When we just sit, everything is kosher”. I appreciate that Sen-Gupta lives in Israel, but no explanation was offered to clarify this.

All in all, this is a helpful book to anyone interested in yoga and zazen, but read with a critical mind.