Book Review: Poser My life in 23 yoga poses

If you would have told me a week ago that I would have found time to read a 350 page memoir, I would have laughed at you. While I used to pound the books harder than a sorority girl does jello shots, I haven’t been very book minded since Potamus has been born. Unless of course you count the many readings of “That’s not My Lion,” or “Quack Quack Springtime Animals.” But I’ve been thinking a lot about yoga lately, having this bodily desire to get back on the mat, but this mind desire to never get back on the mat because of how it changes me by making me focus and be present and realize and ease into my limitations.

Yoga seemed like just exactly what I wanted: something to calm me down. It also seemed like just exactly what I didn’t want: a place where everyone could see what a mess I was, could see my tremor and my anxiety and my worry. There was something about holding still, about inhabiting a pose, that was scary. What was under all that anxious chatter?

But there I was, at the local splish splash park outside our library, and to kill some time I was browsing the “must read” section and there it was…a book I needed to read. Poser: my life in 23 yoga poses, by Claire Dederer. I am a sucker for memoirs to begin with and to have one focused on yoga poses (dang her for cornering the market on that type of memoir!). It seemed appropriate…would get me reading about yoga (and not having to actually DO it).

I wasn’t expecting it to hit me in the gut like it did. Not only was it a story of her experience and relationship to yoga, but it was mainly about her life as a mom, a new mom, and growing up and raising a family in Seattle, and the anxiety and fears of trying to re-create the childhood she didn’t have, and do everything right according to the latest mommying trend. It’s probably narcissistic on some level, but I love books that are set in Seattle, or the Pacific Northwest, where I feel like I can just settle into the main character’s shoes and walk around. Funny little things like, “In Phinney Ridge, people didn’t have BEWARE OF DOG signs. They had PLEASE BE MINDFUL OF DOG signs,” that make me go “yes, that’s it, exactly.” People who have only visited once or twice wouldn’t quite get the nitty gritty of the city, the nooks and crannies, the differences between Queen Anne or Fremont or Phinney Ridge and the islands.

And she gets it bodily, as shown in this little exchange in her mind about her own hunching and her teacher’s response:

I’m a huncher. I hunch when I stand and I hunch when I write. Sometimes I suspect years of breastfeeding left me curled forward like a fist or a flower…

Seidal said, “I don’t know about you, but I’m kind of a huncy person. I don’t mean I have great hunches about things. I mean, I hunch a lot. When I’m at yoga, I do the opposite of hunching. I open. I draw my shoulders back. I used to thik that if I did enough yoga I would learn to stop hunching in regular life. I would teach myself at yoga to become a non-huncy person, and I would go around all the time with wide, open shoulders.”

Who can relate to that truth? On an anxious, body level, I relate to the hunching forward, fear, hiding my heart chakra from the world, and it reminded me of my favorite Ann Lamott’s quote about her shoulders being raised up to her ears all the time, like Richard Nixon. I also relate to the hunching from breastfeeding. And I too have though if I could just master this whole yoga thing that I would become the perfect picture of posture and openness, thus perfecting my appearance and getting rid of my anxiety for good. If only I could work hard enough at it, that would solve everything.

I feel accomplished, like I’ve scaled all 14, 411 (used to be 410 when I first memorized that stat in 4th grade) of Mt. Rainier. I read a book. A 350 page book, while working full-time and nursing my child on-demand.  It was real, and inspirational, and definitely belonged on that local library’s “Must Read” list. Check it out.