Meghan's Reviews > Poser: My Life in Twenty-three Yoga Poses

Poser by Claire Dederer
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Sep 03, 11

bookshelves: northwest, memoir
Read from August 31 to September 03, 2011

Evening yoga class in Seattle in the late fall: coming in out of the dark rainy street, a small studio offers a warm square of yellow light where for an hour or so, there is a refuge from having to do anything but feel what it's like to be in your body. Dederer, a Seattle native, writes a perceptive, sometimes sarcastic memoir about yoga, identity, and what it is like being a white, privileged mom in a hip urban neighborhood in the early 21st century. She explores what happens when you spend your twenties being free - traveling, playing music, and doing what pleases you - and then find yourself in your thirties with a marriage, a cute bungalow, and an adorable kid. And you're no longer free, and you've completely bought into a competitive culture of exterior perfection and goodness and pressuring yourself to do everything a certain way. Of herself and her friends, she writes, "Goodness ruled me...we didn't want to look good. We wanted to be good. We wanted a kind of moral cleanliness to touch our lives." By moral cleanliness, she means grinding your own organic baby food, getting into the co-op preschool, always welcoming daily visits from grandparents, and never letting up. Being perfect all the time.

Dederer starts going to yoga classes so "...others would see me do yoga and would know my superiority." She buys into the image of a woman doing yoga and achieving complete, 100% grace, beauty and confidence in her life. Beneath that, though, is a desire to stop worrying, to submit to an instructor, and to allay her growing fears. Some history of yoga in other countries and in the United States is woven into her experiences, and the gimmick of each chapter being named after a pose isn't too distracting. Anyway, the gradual nature of her growing yoga practice and its revelations really struck a chord with me. Cliche, but she learns a bit about letting go and not trying so hard all the time - this is actually a really hard lesson!

I found this to be an uncannily perceptive and well-written memoir, especially in the chapters covering her childhood. The images of the Northwest and Seattle were lovely.
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