Tag Archives: Spirituality

Om Sweet Om: Yoga For Everybody

Downward, dogs! Originally spotted on Facebook.

Ask ten different people why they maintain a yoga practice, and you just might get ten different answers. Given that the generic term “yoga” refers to an interconnected bundle of physical, mental, and spiritual disciplines, this makes perfect sense: everyone comes to yoga seeking different things, and there is no universal agreement on what a yoga practice “should” be. Of course, these flexible boundaries also leave room for plenty of heated, contentious debate about who is “doing it wrong,” and if you’re interested in that sort of squabble, you can learn more here and here.

If, however, you’d rather learn a little bit more about what the library has to offer on the subject, read on. There’s something in the stacks for everybody, from the long-time practitioner to the yoga-curious bystander, so even if you’re just trying to understand why anybody would want to twist their bodies into different shapes, you’ll find something in our collection. As ever, we strongly suggest you talk to a doctor first if you have any questions about how something you read might apply to your specific situation.

Asana Sampler:

We carry a pretty extensive collection of active practice books and DVDs, so consider treating yourself to a day at the library to examine the books firsthand. They are fairly popular, though, so a follow-up catalog search, by subject or keyword , can ensure you don’t miss anything. You can always consult one of our pre-made resource lists, or ask a librarian. Some of the more interesting titles I found during my own catalog search include:

The No-Om Zone: A No-Chanting, No-Granola, No-Sanskrit Practical Guide to Yoga, Kimberly Fowler. Some people avoid yoga because they think it’s “too weird” or maybe just a step further outside of their comfort zone than they’re ready to go. Fowler, who felt the same way about yoga at first, has written a book designed to allay those fears. You could call it “Yoga for Skeptics,” but beginners should take note: this book is designed for people who are already in pretty good shape from other types of workouts/sports.

Big Yoga: A Simple Guide for Bigger Bodies, Meera Patricia Kerr. Beauty and health come in all sizes, and so does yoga practice in this introductory volume.  Kerr, who describes herself as “beefy, athletic and loud,” models a variety of adaptive poses and provides a solid introduction to yoga practice in a positive, encouraging way. Includes many photographs of people who look like actual people, having a good time working out.

Yoga for Computer Users: Healthy Necks, Shoulders, Wrists, and Hands in the Postmodern Age, Sandy Blaine. Stuck at a desk all day? Blaine’s book offers a series of poses you can do at your desk without getting funny looks–or at least, no funnier than usual–from your officemates. There’s even a longer practice sequence, designed to be done sometime after you’re off the clock, for people who routinely spend their days at a computer. The primary focus is on making stretching, mindfulness, and calm a part of your normal routine, instead of trying to shoehorn it in on top of everything else. Great for the time-pressed (and, honestly, who isn’t?).

Real Men Do Yoga, John Capouya. Designed to reassure you that you will not lose your man card if you take a class with your sweetie,  Capouya’s book focuses on how yoga can be just one part of a well-rounded fitness program, and can even enhance performance by adding flexibility to the mix. Packed with commentary from professional athletes and regular joes alike, this volume focuses on the physical and mental branches of yoga, but leaves space for those who want to learn more to probe into the philosophy as well. Covers a variety of fitness levels.

Yoga Philosophy 101

Interested in the spiritual beliefs behind the physical postures?  Start here:

Yoga: The Greater Tradition, David Frawley

Light on Yoga, B.K.S. Iyengar

The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, Patanjali (various translations available)

Pathways to Joy, Swami Vivakanenda


Still not ready to step on a mat yourself? Pick up one of these memoirs to see what others have gained from their practice.

Will Yoga and Meditation Really Change My Life?: Personal Stories from 25 of North America’s Leading Teachers, ed. Stephen Cope

Poser: My Life in Twenty-Three Poses, Claire Dederer

Yoga Bitch: One Woman’s Quest to Conquer Skepticism, Cynicism, and Cigarettes on the Path to Enlightenment , Suzanne Morrison

Stretch: The Unlikely Making of a Yoga Dude, Neal Pollack

Research for Skeptics

Never going to do it, but still intellectually curious about it? Call these picks, “evidence-based yoga.”

The Science of Yoga, William J. Broad

American Veda: From Emerson and the Beatles to Yoga and Meditation: How Indian Spirituality Changed the West, Philip Goldberg

The Great Oom: The Improbable Birth of Yoga in America, Robert Love

The Subtle Body: The Story of Yoga in America, Stefanie Syman

Whether your explanations lead you to the process of choosing a teacher/studio, a satisfying private yoga practice, or simply more knowledge than you had before you started investigating, I hope the process brings you joy. I started my own yoga practice with a library book, and am currently sampling the wonderful variety of classes, teachers and studios Pittsburgh has to offer. For those of you currently practicing, can you recommend a book, teacher, studio or type of yoga for your fellow readers to playtest?

–Leigh Anne


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Ink, Inc.

Because the budget crisis doesn’t take holidays, library workers from all departments and locations have been brainstorming fundraising ideas on our staff wiki.  Depending on your point of view, you will either be relieved or disappointed that we will NOT be producing a calendar like The Tattooed Ladies of the TLA. Although library world is normally far from scandalous, this calendar has even the mainstream media’s attention, and librarians nationwide have expressed strong opinions both pro and con.

Whether you sport tattoos proudly, have some apprehension about the subject, or just want to know more, we librarians (inked and otherwise) can hook you up.  Here are some of the materials you can borrow:

The Tattoo Sourcebook: Over 500 Images for Body Decoration, Andy Sloss and Zaynab Mirza. Want a tattoo, but not sure which design to pick? Here’s a guide to inspire you.

Modify, Jason Gary and Greg Jacobson. This documentary includes tattooing as part of its kaleidoscopic look at body art/modification. Not for the squeamish, this film has nevertheless earned a number of honors, including Best Documentary at the Boston Underground Film Festival.

Spiritual Tattoo: A Cultural History of Tattooing, Piercing, Scarification, Branding and Implants, John A. Rush. Far from being a passing fad, body modification is, instead, a time-honored spiritual practice in many cultures. Learn more about the history of tattooing in various religions and cultures with Rush’s anthropological study.

Ink: The Not-Just-Skin-Deep Guide to Getting a Tattoo, Terisa Green. Why rush into something you might regret in the morning? Stay health-conscious, consider the long-term effects, and choose both the design and the tattoo artist that are best for you with Green’s informative handbook.

In the Paint: Tattoos of the NBA and the Stories Behind Them, Andrew Gottlieb. Chock full of both color and black-and-white photos, Gottlieb’s interviews with inked hoopsters, including Shaq, Stephon Marbury and Cherokee Parks, reveal why basketball’s “bad boys” chose their designs.

If you’d like us to reconsider that calendar idea, or have any other thoughts about fundraising, let us know–we are not joking about the budget crisis!  Of course, if you’d rather support your library directly, we certainly wouldn’t say no!  We’d say thank you.  Sincerely.  With great fervor.

–Leigh Anne


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Our spirituality book club has been reincarnated and born again

At our last meeting, we decided to change the Pathfinders Spirituality Book Club schedule to a series format—we will meet in September, October and November, rather than every other month. We also voted on the titles to read next.  And so, our Fall 2009 schedule is:

September 9: Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon by Daniel C. Dennett

An exploration of religion as a cultural phenomenon and its benefits to human life as well as a plea for world religions to engage in more rigorous self-examination.

October 14: Muhammad: A Biography of the Prophet by Karen Armstrong

A meticulous, engrossing biography that gives a historical look at this charismatic prophet as well as the history of the West’s hostility towards Islam.

November 11: In the Spirit of Happiness by The Monks of New Skete

Modern day monastics discuss the pathways to happiness in this profound and lively look at spiritual disciplines and devotion.

Just click on the link to reserve your copy. Pathfinders will continue to meet at 6pm in the Directors Conference Room at the Main Library. We hope to see you there!


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Books (but no snakes) on a plane

I try not to go anywhere without at least one book.  You never know when you’re going to be stuck in rush-hour bus traffic, or sitting in a doctor’s office waiting room, or standing in line at the bank.  Might as well have something to read, just in case, right?

So when I was packing for my trip to Denver, I made sure to take at least one book for every day I would be gone.   And even though I’m having a great time up here where the air is clear, I’m glad I have a few pieces of the Pittsburgh libraries’ vast arsenal with me.  Keeps me sharp, and cuts down on the homesickness.

Here’s a quick peek at some of the books I took:

Sit Down and Shut Up, Brad Warner. If you find the Buddha, slam dance with him! An extremely down-to-earth Zen monk makes an esoteric Buddhist text accessible to the average jane/joe.

Sacred Voices, Mary Ford-Grabowski, ed. This diverse collection of women’s wisdom illuminates historical and contemporary aspects of the sacred feminine.

Leading With Kindness, Baker & O’Malley. If you think being kind means being a cream puff, think again. The authors espouse a firm, reality-based approach to kindness at work. Designed for bosses, or people who think they might want to be one someday.

Straight Up and Dirty, Stephanie Klein. This hilarious narrative of the post-divorce world will bring healing laughter and tough-love comfort to everybody who’s ever failed at relationships. Klein pulls no punches, sharing her story in an honest, yet not-victim based, way as she struggles to date after her marriage goes horribly awry.

With all these great books to distract me, I won’t have time to worry about whether or not there are snakes on my plane. What kind of books and music do you use to distract yourself during travel or other down times?

Your roving reporter,

–Leigh Anne


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Bad Things, Good People, Helpful Books (and other things)

“Life is difficult.”  This simple truth is the first sentence of M. Scott Peck’s The Road Less Traveled, long considered a classic of both psychology and spiritual living. When the chips are down, and things aren’t going your way, it can be comforting to read the words of folks who have experience in these matters, whether you’re struggling with a specific situation or a general malaise. While no book is a substitute for the opinion of a qualified mental health professional, and you should definitely consider reaching out to the community, a quiet retreat with a relevant resource can help you get your thoughts together before you call on a doctor, family member, or friend.

Those seeking comfort from a higher power will find consolation from every spiritual tradition under the sun on our shelves. Those who prefer a more secular approach to problem-solving will find all sorts of hidden gems via a subject search for self-help techniques. And if you’re feeling just a tad skeptical, you might get a laugh out of Beth Lisick’s wacky misadventures with the genre.

Librarians really value your privacy, so if you’re looking for information on personal subjects, we will keep your concerns confidential when you come to the reference desk. If you really don’t feel like talking to us, though, that’s okay too – just be reassured that, no matter what you’re looking for, we try to have it in the building for you, just in case.

That will be five cents, please! Just kidding. Until next time, be safe and well.

–Leigh Anne

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Waxing gibbous

I’m a little ashamed to admit it, but a couple of years ago I took book clubs for granted. I led a weekly spirituality book club with a group of friends, and monthly book clubs with adults and teens at the library where I worked. In each situation I was reading things that we had chosen as a group, so I was always being challenged to read things outside of my comfort zone. But in my heart of hearts, I had thoughts like, “Woe is me! If only I had more time to read the things I want to read!”

I didn’t know how good I had it.

I haven’t been in a book club for a couple of years. I didn’t realize until recently what a huge book club-shaped-hole there was in my life until a recent discussion with a colleague.  We were discussing the merits of White Teeth by Zadie Smith.  Our conversation reminded me how reading, normally a solitary activity, can become relational, communal, and much more profound than it could ever be with my limited, gibbous perspective.  His observations made me see depth and shades of meaning in the story that I’d previously been blind to. It made me appreciate the book much, much more.

This meeting made me resolved to join a book club again. Luckily, this library has a variety: Horror, Mystery, Dish! A Foodie Book Club, Pathfinders: A Book Club for Our Spiritual Journeys, Books in the Afternoon, which discusses contemporary fiction, and even No One Belongs in this Book Group More than You: A Cult Fiction Book Club.

Please, don’t be gibbous, like me: Don’t take book clubs for granted.



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