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Bent: How Yoga Saved My Ass
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Discussion of Bent > Bent--First half of book discussion

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Meryl Landau (meryldavidslandau) | 810 comments Mod
Hi all:

I hope those of you who are reading this book are enjoying it as much as I am. Clendening is a terrific writer and she's got a compelling story to tell. Plus, there's yoga :)

Here are some prompts to get us thinking and talking about the first half of the book (through section 5). As always, either use some of the prompts to discuss, or ignore them completely and just riff. Feel free to comment even if you haven't read the book, as the questions relate as much to real life as to her story.

Please don't spoil anything that happens in the second half. Those prompts will come in a separate thread in about a week or so.

Thanks for playing along. Once you post, please check back (or click "notify me when people reply," below) and make this a back-and-forth discussion. XO

1) Chapter 1--Afraid: Clendening suspects something is seriously wrong with her, but she ignores it. At the same time, she is training to be a yoga teacher. Do you think her belief that doing yoga should make someone less afraid played a role in her decision to avoid the doctor? Do you ever feel that yoga should cure some of the problems in your life? Does it?

2) Chapter 2--Troubled: This is the chapter where she details her past drinking problem. Did you enjoy her depiction of this time in her life? Towards the end of the chapter, after she stops drinking, she notes "an addict newly separated from their thing, whether it's drinking, drugs, throwing up ten times a day, or anything else, is like a person with no head. Your entire identity goes MIA once you're no longer doing it" (p 65). Do you agree? If you can relate personally and want to share, please do.

3) Chapter 3--Hidden: Aside from avoiding a diagnosis yet again, this is the chapter where she starts her yoga teacher training. She talks about feeling like she's leading a double life there, because she wants to project confidence. Any thoughts as you read this? Does your favorite yoga teacher (or you, if you teach), or even your fellow students, let on that they are vulnerable humans? This chapter also introduces us to the four sections of the Yoga Sutras. Did you like her summary of the sutras? Learn anything from this?

4) Chapter 4--Diagnosed: After more delays (including humorously, stopping and lingering at Starbucks, which makes her late for her appointment), she finally sees a neurologist who gives her the diagnosis of Parkinson's. She takes the diagnosis with surprising (to herself) calm, relating it to K. Pattabhi Jois's advice to "practice." "Practice, and what should be one of the worst days of your life might not be," she writes (p. 105). Did you like the way she wrote this chapter? Why or why not? Has your own yoga helped you through a particularly difficult situation that you can share?

5) Chapter 5--Freaky: Although she doesn't want to tell anyone about her Parkinson's (not at yoga, work, an audition to be a yoga teacher), she's feeling alone and freaky, even as she recognizes that the world is full of "freaks." Can you relate to her descriptions? In what ways do you feel different from others? Have you or can you come to see that that's a good thing?


message 2: by Kris (last edited Apr 25, 2018 10:51PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Kris (krisg11) | 40 comments 1) Chapter 1--Afraid: Clendening suspects something is seriously wrong with her, but she ignores it. At the same time, she is training to be a yoga teacher. Do you think her belief that doing yoga should make someone less afraid played a role in her decision to avoid the doctor? Do you ever feel that yoga should cure some of the problems in your life? Does it?
I think some people may rely on yoga or spiritual beliefs to keep fear at bay. I did not feel that yoga was tied to Ann in this way. I think she knew on some level what could have been wrong. Yoga definitely does not cure problems for me, but it helps me to relax and get away from my day to day and bring calm and take a new perspective.

2) Chapter 2--Troubled: This is the chapter where she details her past drinking problem. Did you enjoy her depiction of this time in her life? Towards the end of the chapter, after she stops drinking, she notes "an addict newly separated from their thing, whether it's drinking, drugs, throwing up ten times a day, or anything else, is like a person with no head. Your entire identity goes MIA once you're no longer doing it" (p 65). Do you agree? If you can relate personally and want to share, please do.
I think this is one of the more vulnerable parts of the book. We are all addicts of something in our own way. Mine addiction is work. I will work to put things off for a bit. I've had personal experience with family members with drugs and alcohol. It's life changing for the addict and the family and friends. I can understand people may feel more empowered, courageous and uninhibited when they drink, and they may feel very shy, unnoticed when they don't. So I can see why she felt her identity was gone. If she was not the party girl having a good time then who was she.

3) Chapter 3--Hidden: Aside from avoiding a diagnosis yet again, this is the chapter where she starts her yoga teacher training. She talks about feeling like she's leading a double life there, because she wants to project confidence. Any thoughts as you read this? Does your favorite yoga teacher (or you, if you teach), or even your fellow students, let on that they are vulnerable humans? This chapter also introduces us to the four sections of the Yoga Sutras. Did you like her summary of the sutras? Learn anything from this?
I thought her summary of the sutras fit her well. I've read other interpretations that I felt more connected to.

4) Chapter 4--Diagnosed: After more delays (including humorously, stopping and lingering at Starbucks, which makes her late for her appointment), she finally sees a neurologist who gives her the diagnosis of Parkinson's. She takes the diagnosis with surprising (to herself) calm, relating it to K. Pattabhi Jois's advice to "practice." "Practice, and what should be one of the worst days of your life might not be," she writes (p. 105). Did you like the way she wrote this chapter? Why or why not? Has your own yoga helped you through a particularly difficult situation that you can share? I understand where she is going with the statement of practice and this chapter, but Yoga is not what I go to when I need to work through something or shrug off a particularly stressful day. I throw myself into cleaning. it's cathartic helping me clear my mind, feel more organized. Yoga for me is a stress reliever and something I do to give back to myself, more like a pampering. I am curious to see what others think about this chapter.

For chapter 5, I understood her not sharing the news. I think she was trying to understand it herself. It's difficult to know how you feel about something life altering, and hearing from others on their idea of something similar. It may make you feel better or it may cloud your judgment. The world is full of interesting people, and sometimes they mask their fear in colorful ways. I don't really feel different than others. I think when you are younger you might describe many ways that make you feel different, but I think for many it changes as you build family, career and confidence. Also, I think looking for how we are more alike helps as well.


Meryl Landau (meryldavidslandau) | 810 comments Mod
Hi Kris:

So interesting that you clean when you are stressed. I hate to clean, so I feel more stressed doing that! I do find yoga is a great stress reliever, but I also agree with you that it’s a wonderful way to pamper yourself as well.

Thanks for reading. Are you enjoying the book so far?


MaryAnn | 29 comments Very glad I read the book - thanks for the recommendation (and shout out to my library for having it on the shelf!). Loved her inclusion/interpretation of the Yoga Sutras and want to look at those more closely side by side with other texts. I have been away from my yoga practice and her experience reminded me how precious each healthy day truly is. Time to squeeze in some yoga.


Meryl Landau (meryldavidslandau) | 810 comments Mod
Glad you read and enjoyed the book, MaryAnn. If you particularly loved any lines, feel free to cite them in the thread on favorite lines. And of course there will be a thread on the second half of the book, but it sounds like you’ve already gotten there.

Namaste!


Monette Chilson (monettechilson) | 66 comments Mod
I adored this book. Yep, I blew threw the whole thing in two days. The sign of a great book, I'd say! This one struck a much stronger chord with me than our last read (10% Happier) which is sadly, still half read. For me, the difference is that this one is in the motivation of each. 10% Happier is a great book for people who need a pep talk to convince then of the benefits of meditation. This one is not trying to convince us of anything. It's just one woman's raw experience of yoga as a lifestyle. Much more compelling to me. I don't need convincing when it comes to yoga and meditation—just a good story!

Chapter 1: Afraid—I felt like Anne's reluctance to see a doctor was unrelated to her yoga practice. If anything, I think her yoga practice—the way to puts us in touch with our highest wisdom—is what eventually helped her overcome her fear enough to get her to the doctor.

I am dipping deep into the waters of yoga's sister science—Ayurveda—these days. The two go hand in hand, but ayurveda is my go-to healing modality right now. Of course, part of that healing always involves me making time for yoga. I am learning to understand my body's cues—physical and emotional—in a way that helps me use my yoga more strategically to balance my body, mind and spirit at any given moment and through the changing seasons.

I'll come back to post on the other chapters soon!


Kris (krisg11) | 40 comments Meryl wrote: "Hi Kris:

So interesting that you clean when you are stressed. I hate to clean, so I feel more stressed doing that! I do find yoga is a great stress reliever, but I also agree with you that it’s a ..."


I decided to try yoga when I was feeling a bit stressed over the last week and it was good. I did like the book.


Monette Chilson (monettechilson) | 66 comments Mod
Chiming back in!

Chapter 2... I loved that description of the person who's given up their addiction as headless. We do all have things that veer into the addictive arena. I know I used to think I couldn't have a productive writing day unless I was in my designated comfy chair at the coffee shop. I would jump through hoops to get there. When I stopped putting so much energy into getting my coffice fix, I found so much more freedom in my days. Now I go there when I choose and stay home when that suits me better.

Chapter 3... I really loved her interpretation of the Sutras. What I thought would be a distracting interruption from the flow of the book turned out to be one of my favorite parts. I would love to sit down and compare her version and to a more traditional one She did a phenomenal job extracting the essence of the Sutras.

Chapter 4... Yoga has helped me through so many stages of my life. I used it to prepare for the birth of my daughter and the process the tragic, unexpected death of my sister a few years ago. I found it interesting that my body knows what it needs from yoga at any given time. When my sister died, I stopped practicing precise, aligned Iyengar yoga and started going to vinyasa and kundalini classes. I couldn't embody a practice where everything makes sense because nothing made sense to me then. I just needed to flow and cry and channel all the emotional energy in me.

Chapter 5... I love the "different" things about me—I'm left handed; have curly hair; and I'm a vegetarian. Some of these traits are inherent and others are chosen. People often comment on how much they love my curls and then quip that I probably wish I had straight hair (the grass is always greener and all). I try to find a nice way to tell them that while their silky tresses are lovely, I adore my curly mop! I think yoga is one of the best ways for us to learn to embrace what is, rather than scheming to make things as we wish they were.


Meryl Landau (meryldavidslandau) | 810 comments Mod
Fantastic comments, Monette! Thanks!

Thanks for sharing about your late sister. I’m so sorry to hear that. I do love your insights about the changes in the types of yoga that called to you then.

I too loved her version of the sutras. If you do ever line hers up with the originals, I’d love to hear what you find. One definitely has to be familiar with the sutras, or at least some of them, for hers to make sense.


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