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Book Review of "Poser: My Life in Twenty-three Yoga Poses" By Claire Dederer

Updated on December 4, 2014
Poser: My Life in Thrity-Three Yoga Poses by Claire Dederer.
Poser: My Life in Thrity-Three Yoga Poses by Claire Dederer. | Source

POSER – My Life in Twenty-Three Yoga Poses by Claire Dederer, Bloomsbury Publishing, London, Berlin, New York and Sydney, 2011, pp.332 with illustrations by Laurent Cilluffo. £ 12.99, ISBN – 978 1 4088 0250 2.

Poser is the first memoir of the author who is an essayist, critic and reporter exploring how yoga helped to reveal many hidden sides to her personality and being. According to her 'it is a true story, constructed from memory'. As she says in the beginning paragraph, 'Taking up yoga in the middle of your life is like having someone hand you a dossier about yourself'. The author, Claire Dederer, throughout the book reveals how the different poses in yoga helped to reveal her innermost fears, insecurities, strengths and abilities, forgotten memories from childhood and how she came to terms with the events in her life.

Knowing Oneself and Yoga

In twenty-six chapters and twenty-three poses besides the Prologue the book takes the reader on a very personal journey of the author's life. Claire had practiced yoga for ten years before writing the book and travels from her present life as a freelance book reviewer, her childhood and adolescent years. She explores her relationship with her parents, husband, friends and relatives over the years jumping from period to period purposefully rather than randomly.

The style of writing is informal, clear and fluid taking the reader seamlessly over all the issues that are tackled with thoughtful dexterity. Issues dealing with the pressures of the community in north Seattle, the expectations on young parents, judging and being judged by other young mothers, facing the trauma of a premature baby with respiratory problems, and many others. The period of the author's childhood and adolescence which was in the 1970s and the tremendous changes that happened in the family life, especially of her own parents and its effects on herself and her brother are relentlessly examined.

The attempt to understand the practice of yoga both in its physical and spiritual aspects is the main concern throughout the book. The various poses that affected or those she resisted from doing the most revealed fears that had their roots in childhood. The way she practiced yoga also revealed to her the kind of person she was and how that affected her performance in the yoga studio. Her journey also brought her in contact with many yoga teachers, each of them teaching her something she required at that time to move her forward in her practice and life. Her change in attitude to her life events and how she faced them differently after having practiced yoga for some years is interesting reading.

Claire Dederer on Studio 4 with Fanny Kiefer Part 1 of 2

Inspiring for both Beginners and Advanced Students of Yoga

The book had a positive effect on my views on yoga. It reinforced my thoughts on the benefits of practicing both the physical and spiritual aspects of yoga. It was interesting to see how a person outside India perceives the very same teachings which we Indians take for granted providing another perspective to the understanding of yoga. The book has motivated me to restart my practice in yoga with a more intimate understanding of its principles. It has made me realize the importance of being aware of what is happening within me during my daily life. It brought home the fact that we ignore many things that are staring at us in the face because we do not wish to deal with them.

The most important message I got from the book is the importance of letting go of preconceived ideas about oneself, not to try too hard at whatever we do and let things happen. Poser is the story of how yoga helped Claire Dederer discover that being joyful is more important than being perfect in everything she did. I would recommend this book to anyone who is thinking of beginning the practice of yoga and also to those who are veterans. For the former it will remove the fears of starting something that has such a vast scope and for the latter it will help bring some things into focus which might be surprising and enlightening.

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