My thoughts on Poser...

I think the word is out - people know that I like yoga. I received 10+ emails from friends and family regarding a new book that is being released in paperback. Poser, My Life in 23 Poses by Claire Dederer was reviewed in the NY Times about two weeks ago, and it lit up my inbox with notes from friends.

Poser: My Life in Twenty-three Yoga Poses
So, what could I do but oblige? One little click on and zoom - Poser was on my ipad (and Tim's kindle - but I sort of doubt he's going to be choosing this as his next selection).

Dederer's memoir of her love affair with yoga is a quick read. She is a talented writer: witty, funny, honest. Each chapter is titled with a different pose. She really does a great job of describing the business of falling in love with yoga - the trepidation at first practice, the slow but sure surrender of your life into the rhythm of this physical/spiritual/emotional routine that starts to define you just a little bit.

Her struggles with each asana made me smile, laugh, and even tear up in a few places. What surprised me was that we had different poses that scared us, but it all seemed to feel the same. I loved her discussion of pigeon - a pose that I used to refuse to do because a. it hurt and b. my emotions would be so raw in those 10 or 15 breaths that I almost couldn't deal with them. When I could clear my thoughts of work and other items, I was shocked to find what was really tearing at me, locking me with fear. Pigeon was like a magnet for these emotions. The difference was that yoga almost seemed to undo Dederer. It was the complete opposite for me - it put me back together when I really didn't know that I was broken.

But she captured my feelings so clearly as she described it: "Submission, trust, transmission from teacher to student, imperfection, release of the ego - these were the things that would save me from myself."
Dederer is worried that she is turning into a stereotype. I used to worry about that too. But, as she arrives at throughout her memoir, no one knows your story but you. And that is how you should go into every yoga studio. There are skinny girls, heavy girls, all sorts of races, demographics, lives and levels. But OM sounds the same everywhere - literally. And everyone breathes in and out in a similar way. I know that when I go to class, I do so with an open heart. I go for me - and to add to the collective journey of those that I practice with. I try to go with humility. And yes, I wear lululemon, I have yogitoes, and a nice mat. But I would do it in a trash bag if I had to.

Dederer also devotes significant time to describing her inspiring teachers. She does an excellent job of identifying how crucial that relationship is for moving forward in a practice, for trusting yourself, and for growing. They were the inflection points that pushed her into greater growth in her practice. It allowed her to share her small victories, her struggles, and her fear. I could relate so much to her discussions of little moments - a slight push, a hand in a certain place on your back, a three word sentence - that move you into a giant leap forward in a pose that you had already been ready for, but just didn't know it. That is teaching - and in yoga it is subtle and powerful.

"I could do crow...but it was a tenative affair. Today I planted my hands, placed my knees upon my elbows, and lifted into the pose. The work that I had been doing all these years...had been building all along. I could fly, a bit."

There is much in the book about Dederer's personal life - particularly her current family life, and her disjointed family life as a kid. Throughout it all, she manages to keep the story, and the yoga, accessible.

Dederer's is a story well-written and worth reading. It is a spiritual love story. And a journey: a yoking, a union. Yoga.

-Grateful Yogi