Bookshelf: Poser

29 Jan

Oh, have I got a book for you. A delicious book. One I gobbled up in two days.

Claire Dederer

In her debut, Poser, Claire Dederer achieves the seemingly impossible: an unpretentious book about yoga. Poser is the story of Dederer’s life, told through the lessons offered by twenty-three yoga poses. And it’s a gem.

Eat, Pray, Love author, and reigning memoir-queen, Elizabeth Gilbert puts it this way: “It is very difficult to find books about yoga that aren’t incredibly annoying. I’m sorry to say it, but yoga sometimes makes people talk like jerks. Thank goodness, then, for Clair Dederer, who has written the book we all need: the long-awaited funny, smart, clear-headed, thoughtful, truthful, and inspiring yoga memoir.”

Really, it’s hard to provide a better description of Poser. As a newcomer to yoga myself, I have found yoga-culture to be sometimes intimidating, self-righteous, and replete with white yuppies appropriating the language, dress, and spiritual traditions of brown-skinned people. I relate, then, to Dederer’s hilarious descriptions of her absurd experiences in various yoga studios. (For example, instructors who are clearly not Indian, speaking to their classes in Indian accents.)

Yet yoga offers something to this woman who is obsessed with perfectionism in the wake of an off-beat childhood, her parents’ strange un-marriage, two traumatic childbirth experiences, a depressed husband, and the constant pressures of living in an ultra-liberal north Seattle community. In turn, this book offers something to women who know all-too-well the pressures of being perfect in the face of life’s messiness.

An excerpt, to tantalize you:

“OK,” he said. “I wouldn’t normally do this, but I think we should try eagle. It’s a little advanced for you guys.” My eyes immediately started roaming nervously around the room. What in tarnation was eagle? What if everyone could do it but me?

Eagle: We shifted our weight onto our right legs. We bent our right knees just a bit. We hooked our left legs over the right, as though we were about to sit cross-legged in a chair. This seemed like enough; this seemed like plenty. But there was more: We hooked our left feet around the back of our right calves. My foot slipped back there easily, as if it had been waiting its whole life to find this cozy location.

When I was in high school I had a best friend who was a boy. We never had a sexual relationship, never even kissed. He liked girls who dressed mod and had straight, shiny hair; I liked boys who were mean. We had a thing we used to do while we lay on the couch watching TV or listening to Special Beat Service; we found what we called “perfect fits.” His chin inside my elbow; my shoulder in his armpit; his one foot resting between my two. That we never pursued the ultimate male-female perfect fit only made these couplings sweeter and more relaxing.

Left leg hooked over right knee; left foot hooked behind right calf. It felt perfect. It was a perfect fit, but I was alone. Good lord, there was more. We were supposed to do arms. Right elbow fitted on top of the crevice of left elbow; then we twisted them together so the hands caught each other. Another perfect fit; my arms and hands seemed made to slip into this strange arrangement. My legs wavered, but I snuggled them tighter.

“Lift your elbows,” said Jonathan. “Bend your knees a little more deeply.”

Staring at the floor fixedly, I accomplished these motions. I felt like some advanced, 2.0 version of myself. I glanced up. The rest of the class had come out of the pose. Jonathan was standing there, openly laughing at me. “Clair has found her pose,” he said. As he spoke, I caught sight of myself in the mirror. I felt completely at ease in the pose, and yet I looked utterly like myself.

I had discovered something; there was a pleasure in becoming something new. You could will yourself into a fresh shape. Now all I had to do was figure out how to do it out there, in my life.


4 Responses to “Bookshelf: Poser”

  1. Mom January 30, 2011 at 8:41 am #

    Just bought the book – can’t wait to enjoy it!

  2. The Redhead May 3, 2011 at 9:13 am #

    I’m also fairly new to yoga and a little intimidated. Thanks for this review, I’ll be sure to read this book!

    • Cheekie May 12, 2011 at 8:43 am #

      You’re welcome! It’s definitely worth reading no matter what, but especially for someone who is new to yoga 🙂

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