Book Review: POSER–My Life in Twenty-Three Yoga Poses

“Thought is kind of the problem child of yoga. It can obstruct the way.”

Poser, page 72

To tell you I enjoyed this book  would be an understatement. While not a typical read for this fiction-whore, I will tell you that it struck nerves I didn’t even know I had! IN A GOOD WAY.

Claire Dederer is the kind of woman with whom I think I’d like to be friends. No, really….I feel like she and  I are kindred spirits – at least, I felt that way on every single page of her book, Poser: My Life in Twenty-Three Yoga Poses.

Her deconstruction of yoga, along with deconstructing her personal and familial history, was witty, charming and – above all else, unabashedly honest. Delivered with humor and grace, Claire speaks to what many of us “yogis” or “yoginis” feel on the daily. Or, let me say, I did and do. (oh, and I’m gonna call her Claire, not Dederer because I feel like she and I are friends now, ok?)

Each chapter breaks down a posture (or – her words, POSE) and, to some extent a yogic philosophy…or its interpretation by one of her teachers. I even gleamed a few good quotes and explanations for when I begin teaching my own class.

“When we try to fit our bodies into an idea, it’s dangerous. We stop feeling from the inside and take cues from the outside about what we should be doing. This can lead to injury and, even worse, to dissatisfaction”

Poser, page 49

What was most captivating for me was how Claire took the “voodoo, yoga, weirdo” stigma out of yoga. She also eliminated the “yuppy, lululemon, fashionista, netti-pot-because-its-in” aspect. She just let yoga be yoga; and her story be her story. (which, at times, felt like my story, too……)

Now, before picking up the book, I read thru some of the reviews and I have to say – BOOOOOO. One “reviewer” – a yoga teacher, no less – essentially called the book pithy – she said:

If you want a glimpse into a spoiled, middle class woman’s daily life and neurosis this book is for you. If you want to understand how a life can be affected by a yoga practice (especially in a humorous, engaging way) it is not.

And here, friends, is where I totally disagree. Yoga transforms life, however it transforms life. If it makes her neurosis less neurotic, AWESOME. If he helps her understand her daily life, EVEN BETTER. After all, who are we to judge? That is exactly what Claire was writing about…..she was coming to terms with her own rush to judgment, her own critique and her own comparisons.

On page 207, she says:

“I can’t, I can’t, I can’t, I told myself. What happens when you tell yourself that you can’t do something that you are asked to do over and over every day?

…The fact was, I was strong. But it happens all the time: We make decisions about ourselves and our lives that are not based on fact.”

Now, tell me….doesn’t that apply to you? Haven’t you done that? And isn’t it transformative when you can – sitting in a posture or in your car or at your desk or in bed or at the movies – here a bell sound in your head that says, “your decision about your life/self/partner/mother/father/sister/brother is NOT BASED ON FACT.”?

I could go on and on about the sound-bites from this book….it clearly resonated with me. But, rather than take up valuable blog pages giving away lines from this awesome book, I’d rather you go out and read it.

I found it to be less a book about yoga and more a book about life – just as the inside cover says it is. It a story that it tied together, in some ways, by yoga. And, if I can dip into my teacher training bag of goodies….it’s not so dissimilar to an interestingly “choreographed” power sequence…..

The only thing that bothered me THROUGHOUT the book was her phrase “I had to do yoga” or “I went to do yoga” – yoga isn’t something you “DO”, dahlink, it is something you practice. I feel like she took yoga and made it a verb. Like “run” or “play”……. but again, who the hell am I to judge, other than the book reviewer Winking smile

So, now, for those of you who DON’T practice yoga…….I heard your groan……NO PROBLEM! While book might not have the same impact on you, I think you’ll still enjoy it……the story is well-written, her explanation of the different yoga postures, sutras and sanskrit words are enough to get you through.

IN FACT, I challenge you: I will come up with some prize….. but here goes:

For those of you who do not practice yoga – and I mean those who don’t PRACTICE YOGA (not those who have, but don’t regularly) – write up your own review of this book and post it as a comment to this post…..the best one will get something good…..not sure what yet……but I try to make good on my promises!

Rachael’s Grade

Writing: A

Character  Development: A

Plot: A+

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3 Responses to Book Review: POSER–My Life in Twenty-Three Yoga Poses

  1. Pingback: Chapter 18: What’s a Coxsakie | litterachi

  2. Pam says:

    I just downloaded this book on my Kindle and love it! My children are grown and away from home now but Claire (I think of her as my friend also), reminded me of young motherhood! The days when a posture feels like an impossibity much like having three children playing ball at three different parks and a husband working overtime…how to juggle the transportation of each said child without getting a ticket! As far as my friend, Claire referring to yoga as something she “did or had to do”, there are days when my mat feels like a chore and it starts out as work, but by the hours’ end it’s all BLISS! I found Poser a fun memory provoking read.

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