Thursday, August 25, 2011

Poser: My life in twenty-three yoga poses

I first learned of Poser, Claire Dederer's memoir about yoga and family, when I walked past a book store and saw the book in the window. I remember taking in the cover and having a familiar, small, bitter encounter with sour grapes. I wished I'd written a book like that! Could I have written a book like that? Could I bring myself to read a book like that? What if it was really annoying, everything that bothered me about yoga when I used to take yoga? Or, even worse, what if it was everything I'd loved about yoga and more?

Then, conveniently, I forgot all about it until a friend who'd just read it said something exceedingly generous and kind. She said, "You could write something like that." Having read the book all I can say now is: "I WISH!"

Dederer is a terrific writer. She's spot on about so much. Her book is about yoga in America. It's becoming a mother and coming to terms with her own mother, family, and the 1970s. Dederer also and of course writes about the culture of mothering in which she (we) finds herself. (For a nice discussion of the book, read Sue Dickman's review.

Before I had children, I did yoga. I would even go so far as to say I practiced yoga. For years. In my mid and late twenties, yoga pretty much anchored my life and while I never threw off coffee and thirty pounds in pursuit of the perfect down dog, in my mind I came close by going to classes more than three times a week four weeks a year and contemplating yoga retreats as vacations. When I was depressed, I had yoga. When I couldn't get pregnant, I had yoga. When I thought I would never get pregnant, yoga turned into a way to make peace because through yoga I thought I'd explore things my body could do by banging on the doors of a host of things I thought it couldn't. (Hello split!) And now, I don't practice yoga anymore for a couple of specific reasons, so reading about Dederer's yoga classes felt like a little bit of time travel through which I got to be smarter and funnier than I really am and do an arm balance to boot.

All this to say, if you've taken yoga or haven't, had kids or haven't, or loved From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs Basil E. Frankweiler or didn't (although I don't know anyone who didn't love that book and really don't want to think about the person who wouldn't), you can appreciate Dederer's book. She builds a world and fills it in and flips back to another world and it's not all perfect and the whole time it's great to be there with her.

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