Mala of the Heart – Book Review


New World Library recently contacted me to see if I would review the book Mala of the Heart for TheVeganAsana. Always happy to read something new, I agreed.

Utilizing the idea of 108 beads on a mala (which itself comes from the significance of that number in a variety of domains), this book contains 108 poems or excerpts from poems that speak to issues of awakening, enlightenment, and peace. The poems are organized to correlate with the seven chakras of the body.

Most poetry featured in this text is from the period prior to the 20th century. Rumi’s poetry is featured most prominently; work by Lalla and Hafiz shows up quite a bit, and a variety of other poets also appear.

If you have many books of similar poetry, this work might not do much for you. But, if you don’t, it’s a good starting point, and it would be a lovely small text to carry to teach yoga classes, read before a meditation sit, or tuck into your travel bag for a trip.

Have you read any books that you have carried into your meditation practice lately? Do share!

Walk the Walk: It’s Not Easy

Image by Helgi Halldórsson on Flickr

Image by Helgi Halldórsson on Flickr

I have taught workshops on dealing with chronic pain. I’ve led sessions on the power of meditation. I’ve counseled many students in gentle yoga classes to hear their bodies, to know that a gentle practice is as “good” as an active practice. I’ve told students in yin that it doesn’t matter whether you can do a pose; it’s the being there and with yourself that is the key. I’ve told friends to take time for themselves, let their bodies heal, stop trying to do everything, and recognize when they need help.

I can definitely talk the talk.

Sometimes, however, walking the walk is harder.

I’ve written before about the challenges of letting go of an active yoga practice or other lifestyle habits due to medical issues. So, I’m not surprised when that keeps coming up. But, I am a little surprised at times about the degree of anger I feel about such changes (recently not being able to have an active yoga practice and taking a break from yoga teaching). I’m a little surprised when I can’t even talk myself into doing the things I would recommend to others. And, I’m more than a little surprised when someone calls me out on it – which happened this week.

Cognitive Dissonance Theory (Festinger), among others, would say that in such a situation, where I can see that my actions are not matching what I believe, feelings of discomfort or dissonance will arise. Check. Festinger proposed that this dissonance leads to either a change in behavior, a change in cognition, a change in understanding of the situation by adding new beliefs, or a denial of the conflict. Not check. At least not yet. I think, right now, I’m more just rolling around in the dissonance, vacillating between being pissed off at my physical self, being disappointed in my mental self, trying to be more at ease with the situation, and denying that it even exists. People are complicated, yes?

At the fundamental level, I believe that any yoga is good yoga, no matter how active, it is important to listen to the body, meditation has value, and yoga will still be there when I’m healed. Now, I just need to get the other beliefs and behaviors in line, right after I finishing rolling around in my dissonance…


Leela – A Review of a “Game” for Yogis

Have you ever wanted to take a meditation class with Deepak Chopra? Yeah? Me too. But, it didn’t seem likely until I was contacted by THQ to review the new yoga “game” for Xbox360 and Wii. The game, called Leela (a take on the Sanskrit word for play), features interactive mini-games designed to target each of the seven chakras. According to D.C. and the game’s creators, the focus is not on winning or achievements, but on maintaining relaxation and calm of the body while moving through the exercise levels. It also contains a guided meditation sequence, pranayama practice, and silent meditation.

To quote the game synopsis:

Harness the power of the Kinect and immerse yourself in relaxation and meditation with Deepak Chopra’s Leela. Sanskrit for “pastime,” “sport” or “play”, Leela combines physical activity with deep meditation for an immersive experience. Develop a flow state by focusing your attention on specific parts of your body to relax through seven movements. Create your own personal mandala and share it on Facebook. Achieve inner peace through an immersive experience filled with brilliant landscapes and captivating audio.

THQ sent me a copy of the game to test, and I was pretty excited about it, as were my daughters, who are both interested in yoga and meditation. Abbigael, who regularly attends yin classes with me, Benjamin, and Emmeline volunteered to help me test out the game, and also to show me how to work the Kinect (yeah, well, you know, I’m not exactly the gamer type).

Having a variety of people give the game a whirl, here are our perspectives.  It is an interesting concept for a game, and everyone said that they would play again.  Facility and experience with video games may impact how this works out.  For people who are regular gamers, and used to winning and gathering achievements in games, the focus on getting things right in each level (in a program where you really cannot “win”) may actually decrease relaxation – which is quite the opposite of the intention.  As stated by Abbigael, while her body might be moving calmly on the outside, she was experiencing a lot of frustration on the inside.  This might (might) be less of an issue for those who are not experienced gamers, and for whom winning is less of a goal.  There were varying responses to how well the Kinect system recognized movements in the game activities, but from an observational perspective, it seemed to me to be doing fairly well across the group in some levels, but not very well in others.  Playing the game for an extended period does mean standing relatively still in one spot.  For the folks in the group who have cranky knees and/or hips, it was probably not a good idea to play for a long period.  Additionally, some levels do require a pretty good level of body control.  Tight joints, tremors, or lack of full range of movement in some areas could make the different games more of a challenge, and potentially more frustrating.

The breath monitoring that is available in the “Reflect” mode was more what I was hoping for in the mini-game levels, though that is probably unrealistic to expect.  The features in that section are a nice meditative aid and could be useful for beginning students of meditation.

All were in agreement that the general tone, colors, and sounds of the game are soothing and well-suited to the purposes of each level.  The imagery is quite beautiful and soothing, with colors selected that are very reflective of the mood of different parts of the “games.”  Sounds, including music, game sounds, and vocal prompts, are well done and enhance the overall experience, really contributing to the atmosphere being created.

Overall, I would say that this is an Xbox experience worth trying out if you enjoy meditation and are interested in energy work.  It’s something that I think we’ll be doing again around tVA house.  However, go in with the understanding that it may or may not actually help you enter a meditative state, depending on your own ability to not become goal oriented or frustrated by technology in the process.

Oh, and there wasn’t as much Deepak Chopra as I expected either. 😉