Poser by Claire Dederer
There are a lot of yoga memoirs out there. I certainly haven’t read all of them but I’ve read a few and Poser took a different approach that was really interesting. Claire Dederer tells the story through yoga poses.
Each chapter is named after a pose and she goes further than just explaining the pose. As she tells the story of her life, she specially chooses a pose that parallels the struggles she is facing. In the chapter titled Child’s Pose, she tells the story of her childhood, remembering her parents break-up and how she dealt (or didn’t deal) with that. In Half Moon, she talks about Drishti (eye gaze) and how a specific intense focus helped her stay balanced in the pose and in her life. In Crow Pose, her family is moving to a new state and she tells of the fear and excitement of moving as well as the courage required to try and the leap of faith.
Dederer has an approachable way of writing. Reading it felt like a friend telling me the story of her yoga journey and her life.
The story starts out the way we all started, nervous, a little confused and kind of skeptical. She had just had her first child and had thrown out her back, which pretty much forced her into yoga. She wasn’t particularly excited to start doing yoga, and didn’t even like the first class she attended, but luckily she tried a different studio and it clicked. As a yoga teacher reading this I was so happy that she went back! So many people try that first class and if they don’t like it, they never try it again. While that first class can be challenging to just show up to, sometimes the second class is harder.
Those of us that have been practicing for awhile recognize the ups and downs of her relationship with yoga. The beginning when everything is new and every pose is fun and exciting. Then the poses start to become more comfortable and eventually that shift from feeling like the newbie to seeing a new student come in and know they might look to you on how to be in a pose.
She documents her first experience with meditation and all the feelings and fears that come along with that. There’s also a chapter dedicated to Pranayama (breath work) which happens around when she has her second baby. It wasn’t during labor that the breath work came in handy. It’s afterwards when her newborn son is in the NICU and undergoes a surgery during the night. The next morning upon being told about the unexpected surgery Claire was (understandably) upset. The nurse began insisting she calm down and threatened to give her a sedative. It was at that point when Claire remembered the breath work. As the nurse walked away Claire was left with her husband relying on her breath to keep her standing up.
With yoga we often look around the room and assume that everyone else is a perfect yogi, living a perfect life. I hate to break it to you but that is so not true. Even yoga teachers are not perfect yogis. We all have challenges, we struggle with poses, we struggle with life. It’s reassuring to read a yoga story where the protagonist is upfront about these struggles that we all face.