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“Yoga Girl” Discussion > "Yoga Girl" Chapters 4 - 5

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message 1: by Jessica (new)

Jessica (jessicatopper) | 74 comments Mod
Continuing our chat about Yoga Girl…chapters four and five delve into Rachel’s life-changing trip to Aruba, her foray into teaching, and about accepting the body for what it is. Here are just a few questions to get us going:


1) We learn that Rachel was born with scoliosis and an elevated hip. After years of avoiding strong exercise and dynamic poses for fear of injuring her spine further, she realizes these were the exercises she needed the most. Have you ever experienced a limitation that has held you back from yoga, or that you were able to improve through yoga?

2) Up until the point where Brathen is hired to teach yoga at the hotel in Aruba, everything she knows regarding yoga is self-taught. Were you surprised at how little she discusses her actual training and certification in these chapters?

3) Brathan credits her massive Instagram following to channeling her feelings through the social network, and striving to be as genuine as possible. However, in a society that places so much emphasis on image, it’s hard to ignore that Brathen fits the commercial face of yoga. Do you think she defies or perpetuates stereotypes? And how do you feel about Instagram as a source for yoga inspiration? Is it an accurate media representation of the yoga world?


4) Yoga seems to have helped her relationship with her husband Dennis, and has brought them closer. Do any of you practice yoga with a spouse or loved one?

5) What do you think of Rachel’s concept on page 111 of “yoga homework”? What would you assign yourself as yoga homework at this present moment?


message 2: by BettyBolero (new)

BettyBolero | 4 comments Rachel leaves out many details that I heard her talk about two years ago. She and Dennis were both in long distance relationships when they met. I don't know what kind of yoga training she obtained but would like to know more about that and where she trained. She doesn't talk about her teachers much. She made a glossy video you can see about her wedding on You Tube. She claims to not endorse any products now and made reference to some criticism she took for sweat shop labor. I find holes in her memoir but I don't know if I want to know more about her. She is 25 years old and writes a book. I was interested for while but think now I am glad the book is short and a fast read.


message 3: by Linda (new)

Linda Belmont | 16 comments 1. I have sensitive shoulders so have to limit chaturanga and downward dog. I have major back issues, having suffered once from sciatica and am determined never to be in that much pain again. I incorporate my physical therapy exercises into my yoga practice (because they really ARE yoga poses). If I skip a day I definitely feel it in my back. Stress reduction through meditation helps shoulder, neck, and back tension as well.

2. As Rachel was talking about her beginnings as a yoga teacher, I was wondering when she would become certified, and was surprised that her training was barely mentioned. I think she felt like she really didn't need it except from a legal standpoint.

3. Her beautiful face and perfect body certainly don't represent the masses. I try not to hold it against her, though, because after all she's been through I do feel that she is sincere in her philosophy of self-acceptance.

4. My husband supports my yoga practice since he sees the results - my feeling good mentally and physically. He has no desire to participate, though. My daughter accompanies me once a year on a yoga retreat. She recently got married, but has already committed to coming with me again his year!

5. I definitely have yoga homework every day! Being gentle with myself and stretching my back. As I get older it's more about listening to my body than pushing it to its limit.


message 4: by Robyn (new)

Robyn (robynvinessmith) | 6 comments 1. I injured myself when I started doing yoga. I had to learn to step back and drop the ego. My mom has been in the situation where she's afraid in yoga. She is in her mid-60s and was very healthy, but then had a bad year with a bunch of problems. Some were brought on by too much exercise and some are unrelated injuries. She's trying to get out of the mind-set that she's going to exacerbate problems and get back into yoga.

2. Yes, I was surprised how Rachel glossed over her training. I think that part is interesting to people. It's taking that step that so many dream of but never do.

3. I think if she looked quite different than she does, her Instagram would have a very different following. Some of her popularity may be inspiration that she offers, but I think if she was just an average, middle-aged, slightly pudgy, not very attractive woman then people wouldn't really care.

4. My husband supports my practice as long as it doesn't cost us anything because we really can't afford a studio or child care. But he won't take part. I wish he would. His body is a wreck. His male friends have been into yoga and I'm wishing they could talk him into it.


message 5: by Rich (new)

Rich | 3 comments Disclaimer; I haven't read this book but I have made yoga a serious part of my life so I wanted to participate and share what I could about questions 1 and 3 because I'm a believer. For what it's worth, I practice regularly about 5-6 days a week on average. I've tried several different styles and have learned a lot but I'll save those details for another day :)

1) This, for me, is an easy Yes. I crashed on an ATC in my late teens and hurt my back. For the following 2 decades, I had perpetual lower back pain that my chiropractor said was only muscle damage. I started doing yoga for spiritual reasons and immediately loved it. Then, over the next few months, I noticed the physical changes and improvements to my body as well as my mind. I was becoming stronger and much leaner. I was changing into that person that I always wanted to be; physically and spiritually. After about 6 months, maybe less, the lower back pain was entirely gone. I had no idea that yoga would heal my back but I was certainly grateful that it did because I was always stiff and slightly uncomfortable for a very long time. I just accepted it as part of my life.

I, like many others, have also hurt myself doing yoga, although always with a "westernized" yoga instructor. Now that I know more about it, I'm not a big believer in what I refer to as westernized yoga. Those are the teachers who push students into going "farther' and "deeper" and don't stop chattering throughout the class. They occasionally talk about making it "your" practice but then persist in babbling throughout the entire class and offering up extensions to poses that most aren't ready for but feel obligated to at least try. Much of the time even the teacher has poor alignment and breathing habits. It's basically the blind leading the blind and can be very dangerous.

3) This sounds like a symptom of Westernized yoga. Not that there's anything wrong with it because she is obviously tuned into something big; it sounds like she is perpetuating the stereotype of the "commercial" version of yoga. It doesn't feel at all like the Eastern yoga that I've been taught. What it says to me is "look at how beautiful and sexy I am!" Yoga is supposed to be about finding enlightenment. The physical postures are only 1 of the 8 limbs of (Ashtanga) yoga. I also agree that if this girl wasn't so attractive and wearing next to nothing, she would likely have a much smaller following. Being a scantily clad beauty exhibiting yourself in a yoga pose (and yoga on surfboards isn't exactly traditional), it's no wonder you have a zillion followers ;) Who wouldn't want to look at her? 900 people in a yoga class? If you can't get personalized attention, I wouldn't find it enjoyable.

That being said, it does seem to be an accurate media representation of western yoga because it is becoming more and more commercial every day :) However, any yoga is better than no yoga!

@Robyn, yoga generally finds you, not the reverse. Your husband will start practicing when the Universe says "go!" Or, when he has a mental breakdown ;)


message 6: by Jessica (new)

Jessica (jessicatopper) | 74 comments Mod
Great to hear from you, Rich - we always welcome anyone in the group to chime in on the discussion!

1) It’s inspiring to hear examples of how yoga has helped with various physical issues, yet there is that constant reminder that if you aren’t careful, you can be injured. We must be mindful of ego and greed, and of pushing too far too fast.

I’ll admit I am scared witless of inversions. I live with a blood platelet disorder, resulting in very easy bruising and - in rare and extreme circumstances - there is the danger of spontaneous internal bleeding. I worry I will fall and do way more damage to myself than the average person without such a disorder. Yet I know that inversions are good for the immune system, and mine is an autoimmune disorder, so I often wonder if the poses I avoid are ones I could really benefit from? Plus I am drawn to the strength and the confidence that the poses embody. Maybe someday! Perhaps that will be my yoga homework – finding an inversion that is safe and still challenging for me to master.

2) Like Robyn, Linda and Betty, I was surprised at how little her training and certification was discussed, and would’ve liked a bit more detail. Not so technical as to bore us – I don’t need to see a teacher’s resume or to know if they’ve completed X hundred hours in training – but say a little more than just acknowledging it is an important (and mandatory) step. I’m sure she must have had some interesting revelations to share about the process, after years of self-instruction.

3) Setting aside the Instagram hoopla aside for a moment… there’s no doubt about it, Rachel was a smart entrepreneur – she saw that Aruba didn’t have a big yoga presence, and she made it her business to fill the gap. Being at the right place at the right time with the right set of tools. She touts her “yoga lifestyle” and has built it into a successful brand. As Rich mentioned, any yoga is better than no yoga. If people discover it through her popular medium, it isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Perhaps it will never be more than pretty pictures for some, but for others, it might come full circle as they embrace the philosophy and seek to learn more.

Brathen does touch on the 8 limbs of yoga in the last chapter of the book in the section on meditation. Discussion on chapters 6-7 and overall book observations will follow in the next thread. Hope everyone has had a chance to finish the book – I will be posting prompts soon for you to check out at your leisure.


message 7: by Meryl (new)

Meryl Landau (meryldavidslandau) | 808 comments Mod
Interesting about your issues with inversions, Jessica. Are you afraid with shoulder stands too or just headstands and handstands? Shoulder stands have always been my favorite pose.


message 8: by Jessica (new)

Jessica (jessicatopper) | 74 comments Mod
Meryl wrote: "Interesting about your issues with inversions, Jessica. Are you afraid with shoulder stands too or just headstands and handstands? Shoulder stands have always been my favorite pose."

I will do a supported shoulder stand, but that is about it right now. Trying to conquer crow!


message 9: by Rich (new)

Rich | 3 comments What about using a wall? Or pincha mayurasana?

Here's a good picture of it: http://santosha.co.za/?p=451


message 10: by Jessica (new)

Jessica (jessicatopper) | 74 comments Mod
Thanks for the visual cue, Rich! Great site. Maybe I will try that, thanks!


message 11: by Karissa (new)

Karissa (swansonkl) | 31 comments I'm finally catching up with the rest of you. But the nice thing about that is being able to read everyone's comments first. Not a lot to add except that
1) I never used to have limitations for yoga but as I've aged my lower back has some slipping discs. I actually think yoga would help if I were more disciplined and if I would work on strengthening my core. It was encouraging to read Rich's comments.
2) Perhaps Rachel's studio/teacher is no longer in business and that's why she decided not to mention it. When I take a class I usually don't look at the credentials but am concerned about their focus on the class, adjustments made and directions given.
3) I think that if she could reach a community through Instagram that's great. She may have helped a lot of people and/or turned them toward yoga. I haven't visited her site so I'm not sure what is on there. I think social media is a real part of anyone's business today. It is the first place I go to find schedule, description of classes and locations.
4) I have practiced yoga with my daughter and my mother but my husband and son choose not go.
5) I would actually give myself the legs up the wall and meditation to slow down my busy mind.


message 12: by Jessica (new)

Jessica (jessicatopper) | 74 comments Mod
Glad you were able to catch up and join us, Karissa! I agree, social media is inescapable these days, so why not use it as a supplement to your reality, whether it be your business, your hobby, etc? Just like all of us are not able to gather around and chat after a yoga class because we are scattered geographically, Goodreads allows us to chat here. :)

She blogs a lot on her web site, and her Instagram feed definitely follows her whereabouts, which is often very inspiring. I had reached out to her about the possibility of visiting our discussion a while back, and was disappointed when her personal assistant had to regretfully decline for her. But then I noticed she's been out on a tour and was in Latvia visiting children, and preparing for a TED talk. So I can understand - sometimes you have to say no. It's caring for yourself.

Legs up the wall has become a favorite of mine, too!


message 13: by Amy (new)

Amy Friend | 3 comments 1) My mind is the biggest thing that holds me back the most from yoga. Some days I have a hard time focusing on my breathe and letting go of my mind chatter. I have started meditating and it is improving my focus.

2) I was surprised that she was teaching yoga without any formal training. I was also surprised at how little she discussed her actual training and certification. When I go to a class I don’t check out their credentials. After or during class I know if I like the instructor’s teaching style and that is what will bring me back.

3) I thinks she looks like an ideal yogi and perpetuates the stereotype. I don’t really follow Instagram but I think if it motivates or inspires you that it is a great source. I think Instagram has all shapes and sizes of people and all levels practicing yoga and that would be an accurate representation of the many types of people who practices yoga.


4) I do not practice with my loved one. I have taught him some really simple poses that he will do with me (ex: legs up the wall). He really encourages me to practice because he notices a huge difference in my attitude and mental state when I do practice. 

5) I really liked her concept of yoga homework. I agree with her 100%. We all are in different places at different times and we need to focus on what our mind and body needs. I haven’t been practicing yoga on a regular basis and my homework is to start practicing again and get that calm and relaxing feeling back.


message 14: by Jessica (new)

Jessica (jessicatopper) | 74 comments Mod
Thanks for weighing in, Amy. That's great that your loved one has encouraged you to practice! And I agree, sometimes it is a mental thing with me as well, that holds me back from getting the full benefit of a yoga session.

Since following Yoga Girl on IG, I've also added a few more yoga accounts into my feed. And yes, there is a lot of variation, shapes, size and ability, but all very inspiring as a daily reminder.


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