Thursday, June 23, 2011

Book Review: Poser by Claire Dederer

Last night, I finished Poser by Claire Dederer.  Poser is a memoir with each chapter titled after a yoga pose.  Dederer tells her life stories as they relate to various insights she learned on her yoga mat, through different poses.

I wanted to like this book.  All the way through it, I wanted to like it.  I love memoirs.  I love yoga.  This seemed like it would be a perfect fit for me.  I heard the author talking about the book on NPR and she described the idea that we have a relationships with different poses.  That interview really stuck with me and inspired an essay I wrote for the Holy Yoga blog on crow pose.  I really wanted to like this book.

I finished the read, feeling indifferent about it. Or maybe a little sad.  Dederer has a weird story (most compelling memoir authors do), but to me, the lows weren't low enough and the highs weren't high enough.  The arc of the story fell a little flat, I guess.  But that wasn't my real struggle. 

My real struggle was with her relationship to yoga.  Yoga is fundamentally about not judging, so I'm not judging her expereience.  I will say that my experience with yoga is really, really different.  My impression, having read the book, is that the spiritual connection of yoga isn't really what it is all about for her.  It seems the physical aspect is important, but that isn't it entirely.  I just can't figure out, several hundred pages later, what her real draw to yoga is.  For me, yoga is about an integrated experience of worship of my God--receiving His breath and Spirit, meditating on His word, using my body with gratitude for how He's made me, and using silence and rest to listen to His voice.  I guess I just didn't "get" her story and why yoga was an integral part of it.  Not judging.  Just sayin.

I am glad I read the book because it made me think.  It made me think about my own life story, my parents and their divorce (a major theme of her book is her parents' divorce), motherhood, social expectations, my marriage and, obviously, yoga.  I still love the idea of looking at what relationships you have with poses.  And for me, that means figuring out what God is saying to me through that relationship.  For that, for me, it was worth the read.

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