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

3.60  ·  Rating details ·  721 ratings  ·  120 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. In The Goddess Pose, New York Times best-selling author Michelle Goldberg traces the life of the incredible woman who brought yoga to the West—and in ...more
Paperback, 336 pages
Published April 6th 2017 by Corsair (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
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;
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.
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
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 04, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This is a long magazine article masquarading as a history book of sorts. I have an aversion to writing such as "we don't have any evidence for x for actually being here or feeling thus, but she MUST HAVE felt this way or that way because that's how it was then." This book is full of such speculative writing. Goldberg does not have many independent sources to confirm her subject's own letters and claims, so she heavily relies on general history and attributes to her various states of mind she may ...more
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.
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.
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!
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 ...more
Feb 04, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Let's go on and get this out of the way: how can you call a book "The Goddess Pose" and then have the cover not be the goddess pose? I know publishers often have the last say in cover choice, but really?

This was an unique look at history as it was related to one interesting woman. Either in the beginning of the book or in a review, someone compared her to Forrest Gump in how she often landed herself in historically important places at just the right time. While she wasn't in quite as well-known
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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 ...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
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 ...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
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
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 ...more
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
Jul 18, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I've been really into yoga and meditation for a couple of years now, and thought the story of this supposedly fascinating woman who helped bring yoga to the west would be really interesting. It was not. The book had brief snippets of interesting stories tucked into page after page of positively boring & tedious detail. The subtitle says this is her 'audacious life'. There should have been more about her life and less unnecessary blather about everything else. I didn't bother to finish it - ...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
Nov 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I teach yoga but do not feel a draw to worship the many Indian gods and gurus. This book helped me have a better sense of the history of yoga. I'm thrilled that a journalist put this together because I got a real overview of so many facets of history and concurrent development of yoga. Also many sources either gloss over or vilify the corrupt gurus. Here i felt that we could see the facts of what happened and draw our own conclusions. It was certainly an interesting read. Suggesting it for my ...more
Jun 05, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The book starts off slowly as a biography of a young girl from an aristocratic family finding her way. A little boring. The story gets chugging as Devi discovers yoga in its different incarnation of that time. Not so much about poses or hatha yoga but about meditation and chanting. The section that describes the actual history of hatha yoga is brief but engaging. In the end Devi was given a somewhat fair assessment by the author.
I enjoyed learning about the life of this amazing woman and was pleased to learn that yoga as we practice it today is relatively young and continues to evolve. However, I felt the writing failed to really bring the character of Indra to life and the story ambled off topic sometimes that made it difficult to keep all the people straight. It’s clear the writer has some disdain for yoga, but she was refreshingly honest about the downside of yogic individuality.
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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
“Pure things give off positive energy; impure things don’t.” 2 likes
“Perhaps Bolm thought that, faced with all this, Eugenia would be cured of her obsession. Instead, she saw only India’s enchantments. She was, she writes, “[h]appy beyond measure to be there.” Europe would never feel like home again.” 0 likes
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