Book Review: May I Be Happy
A few weeks ago, I was invited to review the new book by Cyndi Lee (founder of OM yoga and author of Yoga Body, Buddha Mind), "May I Be Happy: A Memoir of Love, Yoga, and Changing My Mind".
I've turned down book reviews before. While I enjoy reading new books, I also have a commitment to honesty. When I share a review on this site, I feel that I owe it to you to be honest in my review. I want you to trust me when I suggest that you read / watch / sign up for something -- and if I'm saying that everything is great, you'd understandably start to question my recommendations. And if I can't say anything nice, well... my mother taught me what to do in that situation.
I did enjoy Yoga Body, Buddha Mind, and am somewhat familiar with Cyndi's philosophies, so I jumped at the chance to dive into this book.
Up front, I will admit: This is not the type of book I usually read. While I love non-fiction and yoga/spirituality books, I'm not one to pick up memoirs.
This could explain why, for the first many pages, I was almost regretting my decision to offer a review. The book immediately dives into Cyndi's story, with several instances of name-dropping. I found myself unable to relate as she talked about her wild and successful youth, even though it was interspersed with honest insight into her body images.
I kept trying to decide how I would phrase my review, particularly since it seemed to be in contrast with all of the big names (for whom I have deep respect) who'd given it glowing reviews on the back cover. I kept thinking Kindness, then honesty, ....but not one in lieu of the other.
Before you make a judgment, though, do as I did: Keep Reading.
The book follows Cyndi's philosophy on yoga, with chapters of "Arising, Abiding, and Dissolving" - mirroring how yoga flows. This format allowed for an open, yet powerful structure to the book.
The memoir itself is Cyndi's journey to come to terms with her (primarily negative) body images, and to explore how her past and culture influence those. She is refreshingly honest about her inner struggles throughout the book, even as she leads an outwardly vivacious life. Cyndi interviews her friends (including Jamie Lee Curtis and Louise Hay, among others) to obtain their perspectives on the body image issue.
It is primarily a journey of personal stories, as one would expect from a memoir. Interspersed with these stories are tales shared from Cyndi's yoga teacher training class, where the wisdom of yoga meets Cyndi's personal life. As these stories are shared, Cyndi weaves her struggles with her own life with that of her students', and finds that changes in perspective (as we are encouraged to do in yoga) can make all of the difference.
Without further suspense, I will share: I truly enjoyed the book.
It was written in a style that was easy to read (in 2 days with a few cups of chai). (Many books I read are so heavy in message and laden with wisdom that I can't finish the actual book.) However, within that lightness are many deep and inspirational insights. I found myself stopping a lot more in the second half of the book to jot a few notes of things I'd like to keep in mind. Many phrases began to resonate.
Case in point? In talking about a question she asked of her yoga teacher trainees, Cyndi mentions,
"Any of the answers you suggested could be the right one, depending on circumstances. Figuring this out is where your teaching comes alive. Teaching yoga - and living yoga - is not about reproducing anything. It's about seeing what is needed right here, right now." (p.236)
My neck hurt from nodding so much.
Cyndi also does a heart-touching job of weaving the story of her ailing mother throughout the book. As a middle-aged woman who expects to face that in the next few decades, it was a painful but beautifully helpful description of her journey.
Is this book for you? I recommend this book STRONGLY to women with body/image issues (and similarly, though perhaps less strongly, to men with body issues), as Cyndi's honest journey (and the wisdom she was offered and gained along the way) can be profoundly helpful. I'd also recommend it to anyone doing a bit of soul-searching, and to all yoga teachers (and yoga-teacher-want-to-be's). And yes, to those facing the challenges of an ailing parent, many parts of this book will speak to you as well. (Just be sure to have a box of tissues nearby.)
As I mentioned, I had trouble initially relating to her jet-setting lifestyle and well-known cohorts. But when you look beyond that, as everyone should, the story becomes one about a woman trying to overcome her perceived facade, using the support of her friends, and choosing a difficult path of self-awareness...all while trying to maintain her career and day-to-day responsibilities.
And there's not too many of us that can't relate to that journey.
I want to thank the publishers for inviting me to review this book, and to thank Cyndi, deeply, for her beautifully honest journey and courageous sharing.
This book is bound to help many.
Did this review help you? Will you be purchasing the book? Let me know in the comments!!
NOTE: You can pre-order the book now at Amazon at this link: http://www.amazon.com/May-Be-Happy-Memoir-Changing/dp/0525953841 . Release date is January 24th. (And no, this isn't an affiliate link!)