Poser is a yoga memoir written by noted journalist Claire Dederer. Her clever conceit is to use the different poses to help recount her tumultuous 70’s upbringing, and then parallel her practice with her life all the way up to the raising of her own children. Crow, Downward Dog, Pigeon – all your favorites are here and written about in a whole new context. As a newcomer at the start of the book, she offers a basic primer on the origins of yoga. What are the sutras and asanas? What is the Bhagavad Gita? Who was Rama? And her introduction is physical as well as mental. In hilarious detail, she describes her own adventures as a newbie on the mat. Barely athletic, and a new mom to boot, in the beginning the poses strike abject fear into her unwilling frame. Pose by pose, however, her practice evolves in some of the most unexpected ways. Luckily, she is guided through her yoga experiences by a series of great teachers, each one sharing a new piece of wisdom and instruction along the way. These gifted, hard-working, but often unheralded teachers are rare, and it’s nice to see them get some recognition. Dederer expertly depicts those gem-like sayings they are capable of: the ones that can make an average day of posing memorable.
What makes the book especially interesting is the fact that it is as funny, smart and literate about life as it is illuminating about yoga. Her reflections on her parents’ separation, for instance, and how it shaped her own marriage is particularly poignant. Her unique snapshots of Seattle over the last four decades are equally compelling. The details of her adventures growing up on some of the most remote islands of Seattle while working as a tugboat first mate make up some of the best passages in the book. All of these fun glimpses into her life make for a satisfying read that’s textured, fresh and genuine, and yoga is the ultimate thread that binds it all together. For every big moment in her life there is a corresponding pose. Her five chapters on Child’s Pose alone perhaps indicate just how much rest is needed to deal with our everyday challenges. For those, like Dederer, who see parallels between how our own individual practices help to enhance and shape our everyday lives, it’s a must read.