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Poser: My Life in Twenty-three Yoga Poses

3.52  ·  Rating Details  ·  4,761 Ratings  ·  916 Reviews
The studio was decorated in the style of Don’t Be Afraid, We’re Not a Cult. All was white and blond and clean, as though the room had been designed for surgery, or Swedish people. The only spot of color came from the Tibetan prayer flags strung over the doorway into the studio. In flagrant defiance of my longtime policy of never entering a structure adorned with Tibetan pr ...more
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published December 21st 2010 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (first published December 1st 2010)
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Yoga Bitch by Suzanne MorrisonPoser by Claire DedererHoly Cow by Sarah MacdonaldMisadventures of a Garden State Yogi by Brian LeafYoga School Dropout by Lucy Edge
Best yoga memoirs
2nd out of 29 books — 52 voters
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When Bad Covers Happen to Good Books
72nd out of 156 books — 119 voters

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Community Reviews

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Feb 14, 2011 Jessica rated it it was ok
I loved this book - until I hated it. As a matter of fact, I'll willingly admit that this book brought tears to my eyes at one point, from the shock of simple recognition. We share a parenting philosophy, Claire and I - the "I'll be the most hawk-eyed, careful parent ever and God will reward me by making sure my children are healthy" approach. And the kicker is that I didn't even know it was a parenting style, much less one held by me, until I found a passage about it in this book and had to rem ...more
Apr 20, 2011 Tiffani rated it it was ok
Wow! Am i the only person who didn't like this book? I was so excited to read it, as I live in Seattle and enjoy yoga and know the instructors she talks about. After reading the first 3 chapters I became disappointed. This is the first book that I actually skipped through entire passages out of boredom. Usually the eloquence of a writer will keep me reading, even if I find the subject boring, but with this book I couldn't stay connected.

I really enjoyed the parts about yoga, but then the author
Jan 16, 2012 David rated it it was ok
eventful life story - her parents were Pacific Northwest hippies who remained married through an extremely long separation while the Mom lived with much younger boyfriend; author herself has an up-and-down marriage to fellow freelance writer with whom she has a couple kids, one of whom was born after serious complications.

The other plus is that she's intermittently funny in describing day to day events. Not "funny enough to make most writers swoon with envy" as claimed by one of the blurb-ers, b
Kate Woods Walker
Mar 18, 2011 Kate Woods Walker rated it liked it
Claire Dederer, with her supple mommy memoir Poser: My Life in Twenty-Three Yoga Poses, has delivered an accessible, fresh look at feminism, liberalism, family life and literary coupledom, lightly sprinkled with enough yogic information to warrant its title and give the book some structure.

Dederer transcends whatever mean-spiritedness she might have entertained toward imperfect but well-meaning parents, dodges every cliché she might have used to describe her leftist Seattle environs, and arrives
Nov 06, 2011 Becky rated it it was ok
Shelves: nonfiction
Now that I've had a couple glasses of wine and a few days to stew over this book, I'm ready to rant. This was not a good book. This is a memoir of an (upper) middle class white woman complaining about her amazing life. For the first third, you may find yourself enjoying her entertaining wit, but then, all of a sudden, you've had enough. You just can't take the self-indulgent, over anxious, my life is just slightly less than perfect bullshit.

Maybe I shouldn't have had those couple glasses of win
guys. oh my god. i LOVE this book. this is the best book i have read in YEARS. i would give it fifteen stars if i could. i have never written fan mail to an author before, but i want to write fan mail to this author. i want to buy fifty copies & just dispense them to people in my life like candy (but i sadly am not made of money). i most certainly intend to buy my own copy (i got this one from the library) so i can re-read it over & over & loan it to friends.

it's kind of weird that i
Feb 20, 2011 Susie rated it liked it
Oh, this book. As soon as I finished (five minutes ago), I teared up and felt a big well in my chest--then I promptly looked up some reviews online to see how others had found it. I liked this book. I think I would like Claire Dederer. The parts about yoga are fantastic and funny and resonant. She might make you crack up out loud. And the landscapes she describes are ones I have visited and liked.

But somewhere in the middle I kept going "huh?" and "wha?" She tackles so much--spoiler! Spoiler al
Julie Ehlers
This book affected me so much that I feel like kind of a dork for even talking about it. I certainly wasn’t expecting it.

When it comes to vaguely spiritual, get-your-shit-together memoirs, there seem to be two types: there’s the full-on self-help memoir, which is usually a stunt memoir (e.g., The Happiness Project , or Rachel Bertsche’s books), and then there’s the real memoir that just happens to be about getting your shit together (I would put Eat, Pray, Love in this category). The self-help m
Tina Hamilton
May 01, 2012 Tina Hamilton rated it really liked it
When I saw the title of this book, it turned me off, to be honest. Those of you who know me, know that I practice yoga. So, let's just say I had my doubts. However, the book was a good read. The nonfiction narrative takes place over many years while she is working, raising a family, bucking up a sometimes depressed husband, and so on. They are both writers. She started yoga after injuring her back while breastfeeding/carrying around her first child. From that first yoga class, she started a yoga ...more
Mar 05, 2014 Elizabeth rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
This is a hard book to categorize. There actually is not much about yoga here and so I was disappointed. It is mostly about her life :: childhood, marriage, and motherhood. The writing is stellar. And I mean that. Claire Dederer can write.

Living in PDX helped me understand and relate to many of her observations about parenthood PLUS the lofty goal of being the perfect mom. I loved her descriptions of the Dansko wearing moms. And yes, I wore- ahem, *wear* Danskos.

Abeer Hoque
Dec 30, 2013 Abeer Hoque rated it really liked it
I read "Poser: My Life in 23 Yoga Poses" by Claire Dederer in 2 days. It's fast and clever and beautiful.

"Beginning is hard. But it's also lucky."

Ms. Dederer uses yoga poses to divvy and dissect her life and realizations - a conceit that will probably weary non-yoga-enthusiasts, and annoyed me from time to time (and I adore yoga and credit it for much that is calm and stable in my life) (the structure also gets a bit forced as the book goes along).

"Time was a continent we walked across… I remem
Nov 09, 2012 Laura rated it liked it
This was a really tough book to slog through. The concept is unique and makes sense (relating events from her life through yoga poses). And the author is a good writer - if I saw her byline in a newspaper or magazine I'd head straight for the article. But this book took way too long to read - I found myself just not caring about the author (though she is likeable). Part of this is that I felt she created some of her own stress - I also live in a pretty liberal area, but she could have opted out ...more
Jul 21, 2011 Jen rated it really liked it
Dederer writes, "I had a sudden thought: What if the opposite of good wasn't bad? What if the opposite of good was real?"

I almost didn't read this book. By the time my turn came on the library waiting list, I was already bogged down with other reads and thought about cancelling my hold. The description sounded intriguing, but yoga books usually annoyed me. Actually, a lot of westernized yoga culture bothers me. Especially little rhinestone tank tops emblazoned with decapitalized slogans like "br
Jun 07, 2011 Jessie rated it did not like it
Shelves: couldnotfinish
I couldn't finish this one. Although the writing was lovely and I did identify with a lot of what the author discusses at the beginning (the grandparents' raw need to be near the baby, yoga as a way to ease perfectionism) I ultimately had the same problem with this memoir as I did with Eat, Pray, Love: it's really hard to listen to someone so privileged complain so much.

As a mom who has just gone back to full-time work and is pumping milk all day long while missing my child, I just couldn't get
Sep 07, 2011 Ula rated it liked it
I don't remember the last time I vacillated between love and intense annoyance so much in a book. I was initially weary to read a book about yoga by a white north Seattle uber-yuppie mother but in the first few chapters I was won over. The author was funny, self-deprecating and discussed so many issues in approaching yoga (like, is this real yoga, just a workout, white people finding faux-spiritualism through eastern cultures, stinky hippies who think they're better than everyone?) that at least ...more
Dec 18, 2011 J.P. rated it it was ok
I read a good review of this book and recommended it to a new-mom friend of mine in Seattle, who promptly bought it, read the first ten pages and then gifted it to me.

I'm not sure why I thought I would enjoy this book. I am not a mother. Also, I am one of those people who WANTS to like yoga, but always drags myself to the studio reluctantly. I want to be a yogi. But truth be told, it bores me to tears.

All this is to say that this review comes with the caveat that I am not her target audience.

Apr 17, 2011 Kim rated it it was amazing
I loved this book! This is due in large part because it was about yoga, which I do, in North Seattle, where I live. In this book Claire Dederer tells the story of her adult life in Seattle in the mid to late 90s. She's ten years older than me, and thus was into yoga 10 years before me. She had her children in North Seattle at the same time I was going to college while living in North Seattle and nannying in Issaquah (a suburb 17 miles east of Seattle filled with Microsoft money). The families I ...more
Diane Kistner
Oct 28, 2012 Diane Kistner rated it really liked it
I am fifteen years older than Claire Dederer, the author of this book, so women in my cohort and our mothers' cohort had a different experience of marriage and family and place than the author and her mother did. That said, my own mother was ahead of her time (divorcing in the fifties) and we were both caught up in the seventies (when I was just out of high school and on my own) with the self-exploratory fads and experimentations that Claire's mother (and, in her own way, Claire herself) was. I ...more
Mar 03, 2011 kmc rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir
I wasn't drawn to the cover at all, but I was drawn to the topic she was writing about did draw me (yoga, as well as the subtitle: My Life in Twenty-three Yoga poses), so I jumped in with both feet. An endorsement from Elizabeth Gilbert didn’t hurt either. What kept me reading though was the writing. I love the way Claire writes, the way she morphs words into something new; the way she uses language. . . her, um, languaging. Some examples: effortful, forking, efforting, jollity, constellated…
Noreen O'Connor
Jul 30, 2011 Noreen O'Connor rated it liked it
Dederer is a good writer, and in this work tries to accomplish a number of ambitious things--compare the lives of her mother with her own life and think about the changes wrought by second wave feminists for women today, discuss the anxieties of motherhood among a set of highly educated, privileged-yet-progressive Seattle women, examine her own childhood among hippies and other loving but rather alternative and self involved adults, describe her process of coming to terms with some of her own pe ...more
Mar 14, 2014 Kris rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: never-finished
Like Eat, Pray, Love, but worse. I thought the title was a cute play on the subject of yoga poses, but it's actually about her living the life she thought she was supposed to. Reading about someone doing all the things you love for all the wrong reasons was really awful. It might get better later, but I'll never know because the beginning sucked so bad.
Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance
“We didn’t want to look good. We wanted to be good.”

Claire is a new mom, a wife, and a writer and she is so close to having a nervous breakdown that you can see her shaking hand on every page of this typewritten manuscript. She takes up yoga in the midst of her crazy life and somehow yoga saves her.

“I had a sudden thought: What if the opposite of good wasn’t bad? What if the opposite of good was real?”

“I had started going to yoga because I wanted other people to admire my goodness. I came to yo
I am officially moving this to my unfinished shelf. Since I don't ever feel compelled to listen to it it is time for it to go.

Listening to this from my Audible downloads. Not loving this book, in fact I am really not even liking it much. I listen to a little here and there but am not going out of my way to try to listen to this. Currently in Chapter 10.

I was initially really interested in the layout, 23 postures broken out chapter by chapter. But, that interest waned pretty quickly after I star
Jul 16, 2014 Margaret rated it it was ok
Shelves: yoga
I enjoyed this book, so I can't give it one star, but honestly it is not okay. Shanti and I listened to this on a mammoth relocation from the West Coast to the midwest, and it gave us plenty of snorts and snickers, some on purpose, as we greeted and dismissed interminable states like Montana and South Dakota.

Fiction was invented so that people who can't stand their loved ones don't have to wait for them to die to tell the truth about them. Perhaps that will be Dederer's metier. The omissions, in
Alex Templeton
Apr 22, 2011 Alex Templeton rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As all over the place as this memoir often was, and as much as I think the yoga-organizing structure didn't always consistently work, I ended up being a fan of this memoir. Coincidentally, I started reading it the week I began taking care of some friends' five month old baby during the week, which brought up all kinds of thoughts about that scary future day when I will have a child I won't be giving back at 4:30 PM. A lot of what Dederer thinks about in this book is the relationship between pare ...more
Helen Vostrovsky holmes
Loved every page of this book. The books matches yoga poses (in a completely NON-annoying way) with with author's memories of childhood and of her current experiences and struggles raising her children and discovering what her marriage really means to her. I dare you to read this passage from page 177 and not want to read this whole book...

"What?" he said. This may be the most ominous syllable in the lexicon of marriage. And of course there was only one answer for me to give, and I think any
Leah W
Feb 12, 2011 Leah W rated it really liked it
After seeing the brief discussion about it, I decided to pick this up. I was interested in the author's completely non-spiritualist take on yoga. I agree with some of Slate's complaints (namely, that the author takes her experience to be emblematic of a generation when it isn't), but it was a nice read about someone learning not to take everything in life (and motherhood) so seriously. It makes me long for a Susan Messing memoir about improv.

Also: "Pregnancy yoga is not yoga. It is ni
I just love this book!! I had laughed out loud so many times in the first chapter that I stopped to email my sister, my daughter, and my daughter-in-law about it. Here's an example: "At any rate, putting your child in a stroller was fast becoming yet another way of letting the world know that a) you didn't really love your kid and b) you were an uneducated dumbshit. ... And so we made our way through the fall afternoon to the bookshop, the baby graciously tolerating her dumbshit, unloving mother ...more
Ellen Keim
Apr 24, 2015 Ellen Keim rated it really liked it
Unfortunately the rest of the book didn't live up to the promise of its beginning, which I thought was hilarious, but then I don't think it was meant to be a humorous look at yoga (although a lot of it was). The author was at her best when she was writing about the things about yoga that put her off at first (and even later, as she ran into some different variations that seemed a little much to her). I admit to being somewhat biased: I am not a big fan of yoga, have very little experience with i ...more
Gail Storey
Apr 15, 2014 Gail Storey rated it it was amazing
I read Claire Dederer's POSER: My Life in Twenty-Three Yoga Poses with the Women's Adventure Magazine Book Club, and loved it! It works on so many levels--a great story of her marriage, raising kids, and relationships with her parents and friends, as well as smart commentary on a generation moving from protracted adolescence into adulthood. Even as she subscribes to the determination to be a good wife, mother, daughter, and professional of her Seattle milieu, she has a sense of humor about how d ...more
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Memoirs/biographies with a yoga theme 2 30 Nov 25, 2012 05:30AM  
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  • A Life Worth Breathing: A Yoga Master's Handbook of Strength, Grace, and Healing
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Claire’s first book, Poser: My Life in Twenty-Three Yoga Poses, will be published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux in January, 2011. It will be published simultaneously in the UK by Bloomsbury.

Claire is a longtime contributor to The New York Times. Her articles have appeared in Vogue, Real Simple, The Nation, New York, Yoga Journal, on Slate and Salon, and in newspapers across the country. Her writing
More about Claire Dederer...

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“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.” 17 likes
“I carefully lifted out of the pose and spoke up: "Uh, Fran? When I'm doing the pose (camel), I have this feeling in my chest, kind of a scary, tight feeling."

Fran was adjusting someone across the room. She had a way of looking like a thoughtful seamstress when she made adjustments: an inch let out here, a seam straightened there, and everything would be just right. She might as well have had pins tucked between her lips and a tape measure around her neck. Without missing a beat or looking up she said, "Oh, that's fear. Try the pose again."

Fear. I hadn't even known it was there.”
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