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Poser: My life in twenty-three yoga poses

By Claire Dederer

There are three distinct pathways by which you might find yourself relating to the narrator of this lovely 2011 memoir: The path of the newly married woman, with dreams of picket fences and that proverbial bliss; the path of the young mother, saddled with – and motivated by – society’s expectations for your perfection; or the path of the yoga student, breathing deeply and embracing the truths embodied in every pose.

Or perhaps, you’re fortunate enough to have walked all three paths at one time or another. If so, don’t miss Poser: My Life in Twenty-Three Yoga Poses. Beginning with her first moments of motherhood, author Claire Dederer’s yoga practice – taken on as a remedy for the back pain caused by breastfeeding-- creates the framework for the book: Each chapter is named for a different pose, and each pose in turn teaches Dederer something about her life.

As she says, she falls “madly in love with yoga."

Readers are apt to fall madly in love with her, not only because she speaks to them like a genuine friend, with rich, laugh-out-loud stories, honest questions, and spot-on observations, but also because she speaks a generation’s truth, of wanting to be “good, good, good.” She digs into her hippie childhood, exploring the women of that era and their perspective, and what it means for those women who have come after them. Along the way we learn a bit of the history and mechanics of yoga, as Dederer herself did from various teachers and research. We grunt and hold our breath with her (hint: don't hold your breath) as she attempts to perfect the simplest child's pose and the most difficult headstands and wheels (full backbends).

But life, and yoga, are not about achieving perfection. She says in one poignant moment, “What yoga seemed to be teaching me was this: Who cares? Who cares about goodness? There’s only this: a woman in a heap on the floor. No one ever said reality was going to be dignified.” As Dederer comes to understand this, she stretches and strengthens her relationships with her husband, her parents, and particularly herself, into a perfect pose of contentment.

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