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Intellectual House o' Pancakes Webdiary

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2008-07-02 - 11:24 a.m.

The other day I kind of dismissed this book as being goofy, at least on first glance. I feel duty-bound to revise that opinion, as this book has been a good and stimulating companion to me all week.

It seems like this author's publisher wanted to release some light pop-fiction beach-reading for women in the 35-50 demographic, replete with a cutesy cover and a jokey title, typeset in that distinctive chick-lit font.

And the descriptions of yoga postures between chapters is a gimmick that we've seen before in drugstore novels featuring recipes, or quilting tips, or what have you. So the trappings all scream "not serious."

But this novel has two things going for it--one, it is much sharper, wittier, more observant, and certainly deeper than it needs to be to entertain the kind of casual reader/yoga enthusiast that it seems to be marketed toward.

And two, Anne Cushman clearly knows the yoga world inside and out and is able to make fun of the typical denizens thereof--teachers, gurus, acolytes, sadhus--with great accuracy and enough compassion to lift it out of the realm of easy parody. You can tell that her barbs come not from superficial, touristy observation but from having lived, believed, been disappointed, and then redeemed by the spiritual realm.

Anyone who's ever felt baffled and slightly alienated in an Iyengar class will relate to the passage where a gruff Iyengar-type master teacher barks orders to "...Drive the armpit of the groin deep into the inner wall of the sacrum...", and other such surreal instructions, and there's a pretty good send-up of the hugging saint Amma that is funny without being mean-spirited.

I can't in good conscience recommend it to boys, or people who are turned off by the world of self-development workshops and stuff, but it's a good read for yoginis who've been around the block .

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