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The Goddess Pose: The Audacious Life of Indra Devi, the Woman Who Helped Bring Yoga to the West

3.62  ·  Rating details ·  834 ratings  ·  137 reviews
When the woman who would become Indra Devi was born in Russia in 1899, yoga was virtually unknown outside of India. By the time of her death, in 2002, it was being practiced everywhere, from Brooklyn to Berlin to Ulaanbaatar.Born into the minor aristocracy (as Eugenia Peterson), Devi grew up in the midst of one of the most turbulent times in human history. Forced to flee t ...more
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Published October 20th 2015 by Tantor Audio (first published February 10th 2015)
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Jul 26, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Yaaresse by: Fresh Air interview

Had it not been for an interview with the author on Fresh Air. I probably never would have thought about reading this book. Being the opposite of svelte or limber, any passing interest I had in yoga was squelched long ago. What caught my ear was that Indra Devi, the woman who basically invented what the Lithe Ladies in Lemonlulu know as yoga today--the daughter of an East European B-grade actress mother and a Swedish father who abandoned the family--ended up smack in the middle of most major wor
Jun 04, 2015 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, tedious
1.5 stars. If you're interested in the history of yoga and how it's changed over the years, this is not the book for you. The TLDR is that it was an aristocratic Russian woman who made yoga popular in the US, it was introduced as a very practical method of relaxation (the spiritual quest part didn't start until the 70s Age of Aquarius era), and it started with bored rich housewives in the 50s.

The book needs serious editing. There is little flow, there are too many people, and too many tangents;
Mar 19, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir, arc
In The Goddess Pose, author Michelle Goldberg describes in well-researched detail the unconventional life of Indra Devi, a Russian-born aristocrat who eventually becomes a nomadic spiritual teacher of sorts.

There is no doubt that Devi is a fascinating woman--and nothing like the zen yoga-instructor caricature that I was anticipating. Here I was thinking Devi was going to be quiet and serene, full of infinite peace and patience. But, in reality, she is wild and somewhat reckless, intelligent but
Barbara H
The author of this book was interviewed today on NPR. It was interesting to me because I had started yoga many years back, when it was quite different than the practise today. Goldberg commented on what I have seen and disliked in recent classes. It more resembles aerobics than the peaceful, careful discipline. I look forward to reading the history of early yoga in the West.
Dec 20, 2015 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Beyond tedious to get through. The author went on so many tangents I couldn't keep track of what was going on. Gave up 1/3 through the book because I could not stay engaged. ...more
Much more about everyone but Devi than Devi herself. I'd have done better reading Devi's own work. That said, I did listen to the whole thing? But I didn't quite think the book really fulfilled the claim that it would show how Devi brought yoga to the west.

This was an audio listen, and I found the pronunciation of Sanskrit grating, and I found the lack of knowing how to pronounce Patanjali to be grating, too.

Not a favorite.
Gaylord Dold
Goldberg, Michelle. The Goddess Pose: The Audacious Life of Indra Devi, the Woman Who Helped Bring Yoga to the West, Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 2015 (322pp.$26.95)

Now that yoga is the province of slick promotions, self-indulgence, and the sweat-box mentality of exercise studios, it is hard to conceive of its beginnings in the rejection of ego and the acceptance of disappointment and suffering as the essence of life. As a system of physical fitness, yoga is a modern phenomenon. Indians, however,
Jun 06, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Not as interesting as I thought it would be...too many digressions into details about side character's lives. I like the recent style of integrating personal reflections into straight historical accounts. In the end I didn't learn much more than what was covered in the interview with the author on NPR. ...more
Jill Yesko
Jun 25, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Essential reading for anyone interested in yoga beyond Lulumon.
My biggest quibble...a HORRIBLE cover. Couldn't they find an image of Indra Devi? Fire that designer!
Amanda Comi
I listened to this as an audio book to try and clock some extra hours for my yoga teacher training. This book read like the Forest Gump of yoga, with Indra Devi bouncing around between infamous figures and events. The writing was fine and most of the most interesting details about the evolution of yoga were cribbed directly from Singleton’s Yoga Body text, so there’s that.

I would not recommend reading this book.
Christie Bane
I’ve always wondered exactly how yoga came to the U.S. and entered the mainstream, and this book explains it. The book is about a very interesting woman named Indra Devi, who lived a long and fascinating life all over the world. I now have a much better understanding of the story behind yoga in America. I still gave it only 3 stars though because I never felt like I really got to know Indra Devi. This wasn’t exactly a biography so maybe that was an unfair expectation, but it felt more like “she ...more
A friend originally recommended this book to me and recently I found it in my local library. "They don't make women like this anymore." Indra Devi was born in Russia in the last year of the nineteenth century and lived to be 102. During her amazing life spanning three centuries she almost singlehandedly brought yoga to the West. She lived in Russia, fleeing from the revolution, then performed as an actress during the cabaret period in Berlin. During the 1930's she was led to India and was part o ...more
Sian Lile-Pastore
This book is a mixture of being really interesting and really dull. If you have just picked this up for the yoga, then there's a lot of other stuff to plough through, but if you like a wide reaching biography that starts in Russia, takes in India and America, and numerous other places, then this might be for you. I wanted more yoga, and I would have also liked more about Christopher Isherwood and Marilyn Monroe (both mentioned in passing) as well as more about yoga and spirituality in the 60s as ...more
Christine Hardy
Jun 13, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I love nothing more than biographies of trailblazing women, and I also love yoga. This book combines both. The author organizes and translates the long and fascinating story of this woman's life in an exceptional manner. It's equal parts history, feminism, spiritualism, individualism and of what can happen when you just go for it in life. One of the best biographies I've read. ...more
Dec 24, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I picked this one up for the Pop Sugar and Read Harder challenges. In this book we are reminded of the history of Yoga and the person who brought it to Western America. An informative read with lots of research about the person and the impact that it has on our daily lives. I enjoyed the story very much and found it to be a great read.
Jan 10, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
An interesting account about a fascinating life. It's too bad that there was not more censure against the corrupt gurus. ...more
Catherine Theriault
May 28, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
I love yoga, history, and wild untethered women who make their own path. This book has it all.
Jul 23, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Two words are adequate to describe Indra Devi--"lucky" and "survivor." She was a Forrest Gump Zelig like observer to world events for a century. From the Russian Revolution (she was from a White Russian family) to the overthrow of Manuel Noriega in Panama she was there. Unfortunately she didn't record what she saw or heard, another reason she managed to survive so long, but her biographer Goldberg manages to piece together the story of this enigmatic and extraordinary woman.

She is the person mo
Kathryn Hurn
Recommended to me while attending a Mexican yoga retreat by the teacher. I enjoyed Goldberg's writing style and the biography reads like a veritable Who's Who of yoga: Krishnamacharya, Vivekananda, Krishnamurti, Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, and B. K. S. Iyengar. As mesmerizing as it is tramping after Indra Devi, throughout her globetrotting life, meeting one Hollywood starlet, government attache or infamous guru after another, one feels as if one never gets to the real gist of Indra Devi. The Goddess P ...more
Feb 26, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The first time I heard the name Indra Devi, it came out of the mouth of one of my favorite yoga teachers in LA. So when I saw the book, "Goddess Pose," at Strand Books, I just scooped it up hoping to discover WHO this Indra Devi, preacher of the most "emotional" kind of yoga, was. Well, I've JUST finished reading the book and I still don't know.

The earlier chapters were fascinating with her early years in Europe. Devi's historically relevant LIFE kept her running from one war torn country to an
Sep 03, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a really interesting read about a solitary woman who shows up all over the world at pivotal moments in human history- from her initial home in Riga to Moscow, which she left in 1917 when revolution was on the streets, to Berlin and her eventual departure with the onset of world war II. Devi found herself in India as it sought independence from the British, and on the street in Dallas when Kennedy was assassinated in 1963. She lived in Hollywood and taught yoga to the rich and famous of h ...more
Eugenia Peterson was born into minor aristocracy in Russia. Forced to flee the country, she traveled the world searching for something. She found that something in India when she began to study yoga. First, she introduced it to the diplomats in China while stationed there with her husband. Then she moved to America and helped to birth the yoga revolution here in the United States.
While this book seems fairly admiring of Indra Devi (the name Eugenia eventually started using), she sounds to me lik
Audrye Glosson
Oct 15, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

Goldberg is a delightful tour guide as she traces Indra Devi’s life from imperial Russia to the throws of Europe during the Great War and rebuilding era, to India and her striving for independence and recognition as a power in her right, to WWII in China, and Hollywood in its golden age. Devi leads a life that you have to question if it’s all true and how is there not a movie about her yet? Goldberg occasionally throws in some of her commentary and dry humor that just adds another flavor to the
Amanda Jenkins
Apr 27, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This one was recommended by my "Shut Up & Yoga" book club and I'm so happy to have read it! Wow - what a thorough story about this elusive woman. The book motivated me to finally watch the 1972 movie "Cabaret" (Eugenia / Indra Devi was a dancer in her early years), helped me understand some yogic buzzwords I'd heard but never in context, and provided a ton of context around the development of modern yoga from its original sources into what it is today. I can't deny being a little disappointed th ...more
Tim Pieraccini
This probably should have been subtitled 'The life and times of Indra Devi', as it does take several comparatively lengthy detours to flesh out the lives of some of the people who came into contact with Devi. This is mostly fine, usually interesting, but occasionally a bit frustrating. One oddity for a biography is that it has no photographs, not even on the covers; whether this is because of trouble with the Devi estate (the book is very clear-eyed about its subject, but perhaps a little too mu ...more
Sep 23, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: public-library
Indra Devi's life could be used to teach a survey course in 20th Century History. Topics would include the Russian Revolution, the Weimar Republic, the Japanese Occupation of Shanghai, Indian Independence, and the fall of Manuel Noriega. For me the book seemed the richest in the first half of the 20th Century. This may be personal preference, rather than the results of Goldberg's pacing.

As an aside, I had wanted to read this book when it first came out in 2015. It has fallen off my radar, but I
Ericka & Nicole
Mar 10, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Indra Devi's life is unexpected and enthralling on its own, but throw in Michelle Goldberg's artful storytelling and insightful commentary and this book is irresistible. Indra Devi makes an excellent unconventional heroine, and Goldberg's narration is reverent and curious, while never letting Indra get away with ish. :-) Plus, as a yogi and Ayurveda student myself, I enjoyed reading about the movement of yoga to the west, but you don't need to be into yoga to like this book. You just need to be ...more
This biographer is a little bit too biased. I don’t think she has a good enough grasp on spirituality besides the very mainstream view. So if you consider yourself a student of the metaphysical, stay away from this book otherwise you will learn that ascended masters are a preposterous idea and theosophy total BS. On the other hand, she accepts Christianity or Hinduism without a bat of an eyelash. *eye-roll emoji*
Also she was very critical of Devi not having spent every single moment with her ail
Jwt Jan50
Jul 10, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography, 2016
Background: dragged to yoga class xmas vacation 2011 by the wife because our kids had started practicing and we went to practice with them. So, until covid 3/16/20 I practiced pretty much every day at a 'heated' class. Also took the instructor class fall of 2012 and did a fair amount of reading. Devi's name came up in some of the research re first woman to practice in India and instructor to some of the 'names' in Hollywood. So, I read the book. Would agree with the reviews that point out the sh ...more
Jun 25, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
An interesting biography about a fascinating, well-travelled person of broad and eclectic experience (Devi seems to have been a witness to or participant in about half of the 20th century's most important historic events); and also, a history of the creation and rise of yoga practice in North America. I would have given it four stars, but photos of all the author's subjects are described rather than included in the book. I'm a simple person - I love seeing photos of the people I'm reading about, ...more
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"Michelle Goldberg is a journalist and the author of the book, Kingdom Coming: The Rise of Christian Nationalism. She is a former contributing writer at and blogs at The Huffington Post. Her work has been published in the magazines Rolling Stone and In These Times, and in The New York Observer, The Guardian, Newsday, and other newspapers.

Goldberg earmed a Master's degree in journalism fr

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