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Poser: My Life in Twenty-Three Yoga Poses

“There was this notion in my mind that somehow yoga was going to make me better. Better than I’d been, better than everyone else. More virtuous. I liked the idea of myself as a yoga person. (I could not bring myself to say yogi, or yogini.) Lithe, probably thin, with some kind of ineffable glow. And my back wouldn’t hurt.”

I finished this book a month ago. As a person who has had an on and off yoga practice over the years, I loved the bits on yoga, I find myself relating to most of the writer’s experiences and insights, it’s the most highlighted book I read this year, in fact.
I loved Claire Dederer’s idea of relating certain yoga poses to various points of her life, but the latter chapters I find were haphazard and quite confusing. I honestly didn’t care about most of the other topics, except when she was talking about yoga. I lost interest halfway into it but I forced myself to finish because every now and then I stumbled upon ‘gems’.
Claire wrote about having difficulties with chaturanga dandasana and the wheel, I struggled with the same and I am quite convinced my body is not meant to do these poses even if I try so hard. Chaturanga is an important transition pose as you move through the vinyasa flow, and I would always feel awkward not being able to stay in this pose with integrity, that is with the elbows bending at 45 degrees, my knees not resting on the floor, and the belly not dropping. When it is time to do inversions, I find the rest of the class opening up their chests with ease, meanwhile I lie in corpse pose unable to lift myself to do a wheel. It’s a bit comforting to know some people have certain asanas they cannot do well.
Reading this book served as a reminder of how I needed yoga in my life and I need to get back on the mat real soon.

I thought I would do yoga all my life, and I thought that I would continue to improve at it, that I would penetrate its deepest mysteries and finally be able to perform a transition from scorpion directly into chaturanga. But here’s the truth: The longer I do yoga, the worse I get at it. I can’t tell you what a relief it is.
I did yoga because of an idea I had of who I wanted to be: serene, fit, spiritual.
For years, yoga had been the one place where I paid attention to how I was feeling. I did the poses and actually, right there in that moment, felt them.
Those of you who are really bad at yoga, you’re in the right place. I hope everyone will allow themselves to be really crappy today, to walk away from being perfect. The real yoga isn’t in the perfect pose; it’s in the crappy pose that you are really feeling. You want to feel it from the inside out, rather than make it perfect from the outside in.
When your teacher shows you how something is done, there’s a feeling of possibility, a transmittal of something like faith. Yes, this can be done. I’m seeing it right before my eyes.
t was easy to think of yoga as a cure, a program, a teleology. You were going to end up somewhere really great if you just stuck with it. I often thought about what yoga would give me: yoga butt, open hamstrings, equilibrium, a calm mind, that mysterious yoga glow. And it was true, a person would be more likely to have those things if she went to yoga than if she, say, played Tetris for hours on end. (Always an option.)
The idea was, you got better, looser, stronger while you were at yoga, and then you exported that excellence to the rest to life. You learned how to act right at yoga, and then you acted right, or righter, when you were in your car, or at the grocery store, or putting your children to bed.
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.