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Book: Beat Your Irritable Bowel Syndrome in Seven Simple Steps – Paul Jenner | Jessica at Yinspire | 14 July 2018 09:07

Some of you reading this will know that IBS is something close to my heart (maybe, I should say, close to my intestines). It’s a condition that is often poorly understood, and hence poorly treated.

Knowledge, they say, is power. This is where this book comes into its own being neither overly complex or overly simplified, yet being readable and not overly verbose – in many ways the perfect characteristics for any book!

The author looks at IBS, it’s scope, possible causes, and then, unsurprisingly, gives seven steps for working with IBS. Each of these seven steps is expanded, explained and rationalised, mixing theory and practical. The steps themselves range from doctors and drugs through to diet and exercise, and are not dogmatic, more suggestive.

I’ve read an awful lot of books on this topic, and this is a rare one which is both simple yet comprehensive, and on reading it still gave me some things to learn.

It’s a book then that I would recommend both to anyone who has, or lives with someone who has, IBS, and for practitioners working with this community directly or indirectly, including yoga teachers seeing this presenting in class.

My own experience with IBS is a correlation with stress, and a massive improvement in symptoms by altering my stress coping mechanisms, especially with a structured long term practice of relaxation and breathing – that, however, is a another days post!

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Book: Charge and the Energy Body – Anodea Judith | Jessica at Yinspire | 07 July 2018 09:07

We hear a lot about the energy body, and it’s constituent nadis and chakras – the channels and junctions respectively – but sometimes not so much about the quality of the energy flowing in the system.

Known as Prana in the yogic system, Chi, Ki, in other systems, it is nebulous, multifaceted and subtle, pervading everything, influencing everything.

The author, a well known author on Chakras and the energy body, defines this energy as ‘Charge’, defined as ‘Consciousness having a Real Genuine Experience” (yes, I know, a bit American). And this defines the topic of the book – looking at how energy presents in the body, how it interacts with our chakras, how it both influences and is influenced by our character and personality type, and how we can make changes for our well-being.

It’s a big topic, and the author tackles it both well and comprehensively, with the insight and detail she is noted for. The downside of this is the book, at over 300 pages, feels perhaps a little daunting- but stick with it and pace yourself.

There is, potentially, something for everyone in here. For those exploring these concepts for the first time, it’s a good primer; for those familiar with them, it’s a chance to look at some slightly different angles. Certainly the later was the case for me.

This is a book for teachers, therapists and individuals with an interest in this fascinating area; you may not agree with all of it, but it can certainly help you clarify and develop your understanding, and provokes some thinking and exploration.

I’ve reviewed other books by the same author: 

Wheels of Life   

Chakra Yoga

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Book: Complications – Atul Gawande | Jessica at Yinspire | 30 June 2018 09:06

I’ve reviewed another of Dr Gawande’s books – Being Mortal – previously. This is actually an older work of his, dating to 2003 – but contemporary none the less.

The subtitle is “A Surgeon’s Notes on an Imperfect Science”, and was written towards the end of his medical training as a surgeon. Other than curiosity is perhaps fair to ask what relevance this book has in a yoga context, on a yoga website – my reply is because health is far too important to be left to Doctors – I suspect Dr Gawande would agree.

The book is split into three distinct sections: Fallibility; Mystery and Uncertainty. The first dealing with medical training and mistakes; the second on what the author describes as the “mysteries and unknowns of medicine”; the final part on uncertainty and how faced in a medical context, but also in a more general context.

The underlining theme probably reduces to how we expect our doctors and surgeons to be infallible, to support us at times of crisis, yet on the other hand but there is an inherent limitation in their capabilities – those limitations can be reduced but never eliminated – such is the nature of life and illness.

That said it’s neither a critical or negative book, far from it. Dr Gawande come across as both honest and engaging in his analysis, and invites a degree of critical thinking by the reader.

For any of us who use doctors or get ill – yes, all of us, including Yogis – this is a fascinating discourse. The last chapter is especially interesting, dealing with a case of intuition – a hunch, an outside possibility – which proved right, and critical in his patients treatment. He discusses here not only the medical aspects of the case, along with his intuition, but also intuition in other contexts, citing the example of a fire commander who pulled his crew out of a building on a unexplained instinct, moments before it collapsed. Many of us will recognise that intuition – surprisingly it has come up a number of times in my other career, accountancy; something feeling “not quite right” uncovers a hidden issue. I guess intuition, sixth sense, ESP; all of these and none of these.

In all a readable work, and thought provoking without being overly heavy. Worth a read for any one interested in the human body, medicine, health and well-being.

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Book: The Mindful Way Through Depression – Williams, Teasdale, Segal and Kabat-Zinn | Jessica at Yinspire | 23 June 2018 09:06

The subtitle is “Freeing Yourself from Chronic Unhappiness” – I’m tempted to suggest this is the burden of our time but, I suspect, it’s been mankind’s lot for many a century even if our modern society tends to exacerbate it. Anyway increasingly we have the tools to understand and turnaround our dis-ease.

Sometime the obvious cognitive strategies we may employ to overcome daily obstacles – “this isn’t logical” “snap out of it” don’t work any more, if indeed they did ever, and we find ourselves in a shallow or deepening rut – maybe known as dysthymia – long term low mood – or a more stark depression (in medical terms, Major Depressive Disorder).  As an aside here, if you are in the middle of a place of great sadness, get professional help – although not a long term solution there is much that medication can do short term.  Mindfulness offers a different approach to being with the feelings, and changing the landscape – that’s what this book is about.

“You cannot force the mind. And if you try to, you won’t like what become if it.”

So we realise we have to learn to recognise our thought patterns, befriend them, and change their direction. Not an easy task, and one we maybe cultivate over a lifetime. The starting point maybe the breath, it maybe sensations in the body, it maybe movement of the body – in this book the authors work through an eight week programme – body sensations, breath, mindful yoga, mindful awareness, mindfulness of breath and body, mindfulness of sounds, mindful action. It sounds a lot, but every journey starts with a footstep.

“If our mind wonders 100 times during a period of formal practice, then we simply, and good naturedly, bring it back 100 times.”

These are tried and tested paths, and ones which will be familiar to many yoga practitioners. In some respects there’s nothing novel about them. Yet sometimes we need to be held and guided in these simple practices – when we falter we need the wisdom of others – through a class, through a book like this – to hold space for us and suggest the route. This book will do just that.

It’s a book for practitioners; for the weary; a resource for teachers. The authors are experts in the field, and write in an accessible way, although for me, and me personally, not as concise as I would otherwise prefer – yet at 230 pages it’s hardly a long book.

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Book: Descartes Error – Antonio Damasio | Jessica at Yinspire | 15 June 2018 09:06

Descartes’ Error: Emotion, Reason and the Human Brain – Antonio Damasio

“I think, therefore I am” – The statement Descartes (1596 – 1650) is best known for, and still a principle which many hold fast to today.

But what does it mean, and, following from that, is it true?

That’s what the author sets out to explore, more specifically how the brain influences our subconscious behaviours, largely looked at from a perspective of knowledge of how an injured brain effects how we act and the rationally of our human behaviour.

From this the author, a distinguished neuroscientist, postulates that we are more than our brain and our thoughts – there is no meaningful separate existence of brain and body – the so called Cartesian duality.  He describes the idea of a severed brain in a bucket, and stimulating the incoming (afferent) nerves – would this brain have a human experience?  He suggests no, in the absence of the ability to create signals (efferent) back to the body (thankfully, I feel, the idea of being a captive brain feeling, but not able to act, sounds beyond torture – Hell, literally).

Part neuroscience, part philosophy, part postulation, this is not an easy read, but equally it’s accessible rather than being an academic text.

Recommended if you have in interest in this world of mind body philosophy.

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Book: Treat Your Own Back – Robin McKenzie | Jessica at Yinspire | 28 May 2018 11:05

McKenzie exercises are well known in the body work world – this is the guide to them by their creator.

Its not a new book, first edition 1980, ninth and latest edition 2011, and this leads to a curious phenomenon – where the content is very dated but seemingly gets to the right answers for the wrong reasons.

Over the years our understanding of back pain has refined considerably away from the purely physical to the biopsychosocial understanding where by biological/physical factors, psychosocial factors and social factors are all considered to have a role.  I still think the best book about this is Back to Life – How to Unlock your Pathway to Recover when Back Pain Persists – David Rogers & Grahame Brown – I simply haven’t come across a book better.

However coming a circle, whether our back pain can be traced to a physiological, social or psychological cause, release often comes through moving the body, eg gentle yoga, and there McKenzies’ exercises serve well as giving a set of safe and progressive movements suitable for most back problems, which can certainly help to heal physiological/physical/biological problems, and can generate  the mind body connection and tensional release the more entrenched psychological pain needs.

So, to me, although a dated book, it was useful in setting out simple and safe movement patterns, although the more nuanced aspects of back pain in modern understanding are missed.

However I would still recommend the Rogers and Brown book in preference.

If you wanted to buy the McKenzie book, find it here, and as always, click the link for Yinspire to earn a small commission .

 

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Book: The Emperor of all Maladies: A Biography of Cancer – Siddhartha Mukherjee | Jessica at Yinspire | 22 May 2018 12:05

Taken to its logical extreme, the cancer cell’s capacity to consistently imitate, corrupt, and pervert normal physiology thus raises the ominous question of what “normalcy” is. “Cancer,” Carla said, “is my new normal,” and quite possibly cancer is our normalcy as well, that we are inherently destined to slouch towards a malignant end. Indeed, as the fraction of those affected by cancer creeps inexorably in some nations from one in four to one in three to one in two, cancer will, indeed, be the new normal—an inevitability. The question then will not be if we will encounter this immortal illness in our lives, but when.”

Cancer has been with humankind for ever. Our knowledge of it, not so long.

This book, as the title implies, is a “Biography of Cancer”, looking at history of diagnoses, treatment and understanding from ancient time – from Imhotep’s clinic in Egypt in 2500 BC, through to the date of the books completion in 2010. It’s a long book – 460 pages – and comprehensive, but not overly medicalised as it looks at culture as much as medicine. For an understanding of where we are now, how we got here, and where we may go, it does well.

The “war on cancer” is portrayed as one against a malevolent and deceptive enemy; an enemy who never stands still and changes form and presentation in the subtlest of ways. An enemy who lays dormant and awaits the time to strike. An enemy who hides and reappears. An enemy of reinvention. The author takes us on a journey though this war, and the battlegrounds, losses and victories to date. Realism and optimism are weaves together.

On one level it’s an easy, albeit long read. In another it’s a difficult read when you contextualise the human costs, and suffering.

It’s a book I would recommend cautiously to anyone with an interest in the area, but be aware it may be triggering.

The Emperor of all Maladies: A Biography of Cancer – Siddhartha Mukherjee is available on Amazon. If you use this link, Yinspire earns a small commission.

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Updated Privacy Policy | Jessica at Yinspire | 15 May 2018 16:05

We have recently updated our Privacy Policy in advance of the new European Data Protection Regulations, GDPR

You can read the policy here.   You do not need to take any action.

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Book: The Subtle Body – Cyndi Dale | Jessica at Yinspire | 15 May 2018 08:05

The subtitle to this work is “An Encyclopaedia of Your Energetic Anatomy”, and at 400 pages its a substantial work.

The first part is a review of the concept of Energy, before a second part of the book looking Human Anatomy from a physical perspective – mostly a classical anatomical interpretation, but interspersed with some energetic side pieces.  The book then moves more subtly through Energy Fields; Energy Channels; Chakras and the Energy Body and Energy Practices.

There are a wide range of sources and traditions covered – from Indian through to Jewish, and touching it seemed to me on most major systems.  The book isn’t short on detail, and its both well written and accessible in content.

In truth, with a scientific approach in my brain, at times I felt the content to be a little too nebulous – thats no criticism of the author or her writing,  and very much a reflection of where I am now (quite happily I may add) – and its fine – its a big world.

For anyone interested in Energy and the Subtle Body and all the many variations and dimensions, this is a fascinating book, and all knowledge has its value.

The Subtle Body by Cyndi Dale can be bought on Amazon, and if you use this link, Yinspire earns a small commission

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Last Minute Saturday Places | Jessica at Yinspire | 08 May 2018 20:05

Fancy some yoga this weekend? I’ve got a couple of last minute cancellation places for my Pure Yin class this Saturday morning, 12 May.

Two hours of chilled, no drama, Yin Yoga, to start your weekend off. This is my last Saturday morning class before October.

Could one of these spaces be yours? Message me if you would like one.

£10 or a single class voucher. 10am-midday. Rowborough (off Beaper Shute)

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