I’m in the middle of my yoga immersions. On my bedside table is a workshop manual covering all the stuff we discuss in class, my notebook for notes, Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, and what I’ve heard to be the most easily-readable translation of the Bhagavad-Gita. Heavy stuff. So, when I was buying these, I allowed myself a fluff book too: Yoga Bitch.
I have to admit that when I got my shipment of books, Yoga Bitch was the first one I opened. I have seen it in circulation amongst my yoga teachers, and from the moment I saw the name I knew the book was for me. Its premise is exactly what I have struggled with as I have walked this yoga path – how to reconcile a wry, sardonic persona with the authenticity and vulnerability that yoga demands.
I’m not yogic on so many levels.
From a young age my mom referred to me by one of two names: Grace, and the Princess. I was called grace due to my lack thereof. No bandying around that one. Though I have managed to cultivate bit more physical grace with age, I can’t really hang my hat on a graceful physicality, or nature in general. Strike one against Kat the yogi. I was also known as both “the Princess” and, even better, “the Adorable Child.” These were both tongue-in-cheek references to my ability to play the role of a sweet daughter while actually bossing my sisters around and manipulating them like puppets. Cute stuff. So, there’s a testament to my authentic nature.
I note these because they underscore the fact that, hell, I am no yogi. From childhood to now I lay no claim to being sweet and sincere. I like to drink beer, enjoy the occasional cigarette, get a little wild, and have been known to exhibit a bit of temper. I’m sarcastic and occasionally snarky and judgmental. I struggle to cultivate inner peace – and I’m not always sure I want to. That’s the rub. That’s why I love Yoga Bitch. I get this chick. She’s like me.
From her musings on her inner conflicts regarding her need for freedom in her first serious relationship, to her ambivalence about becoming someone who “drinks the kool-aid” (or her own urine, as the case may be), I relate to this author wholeheartedly. She embodies my personal dilemma with yoga in so many ways. How do you embrace yogic principles without giving up the identity that you have created for yourself? (Answer: release your attachment to that identity.) But why? And by what proof do we know that this path leads to the enlightenment we seek? Are we just drinking the kool-aid like we would from any other organized religion (that my inner cynic (and Marx) tells me is simply the “sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions… the opium of the people?”
Ay. This is too much thinking for me right now and I haven’t finished the book. Perhaps she addresses these questions further in.
Anyway, I think her memoir works because so many people come to yoga from a place of inner conflict and/or confusion. So many people find that yoga’s integration of the body and mind in the quest for enlightenment simply…works. It works better than a lot of other things.
Last weekend I got a massage; a Valentine’s gift from Rick. It was probably the best massage I’ve ever received and I know this because I started crying in the middle of it – which as I’ve learned from yoga means they dug up something juicy deep in the flesh around my kidneys and lower back. I could tell you more about the juicy bits, but let’s just say it’s awkward crying through the hole in a massage table and leave it at that. It was a snotty experience.
I bring it up because the author of Yoga Bitch, and I, share the common experience of finding that yoga answered (or helped to answer) something existential that our souls sought. It’s a tool that has helped fill a bit of a void in my comprehension of myself as a relational being amongst a world full of ’em. It’s a path that has brought me to a new understanding of myself, my pain, my past, and even more so, my present. My massage last weekend reminded me of where I was with yoga just a couple of years ago – crying on the mat and feeling every hip opening take me a little deeper into a dark place that I, frankly, did not want to explore. It reminded me of what yoga has done to make a wry and sardonic creature like myself into a bit more of a well-rounded, authentic person in just a few years.
Yoga Bitch, in closing, is a book that I have not finished, but that I’d already recommend. It’s good stuff.