Monday, June 06, 2011

Claire Dederer's Life in 23 Yoga Poses

I just finished Claire Dederer's memoir, Poser: My Life in 23 Yoga Poses.

I was prepared to dislike this Seattle writer's memoir about her husband, kids and ongoing relationship with various yoga poses and instructors (including Richard Freeman, whom she refers to as "the genius."

But in the end I rather liked this memoir. Despite Dederer's sometimes clunky attempts to be glib, it is a love letter to yoga and, in a way, a growing up story.

I think that reading it somehow improved my teaching. One tends to forget that people are actually listening to what one says in class (and, apparently, that some are writing it down).

I also think it's improved my own writing.

You can read a review here.

I recommend it.

I do, however, have a few clarifications:

-On page 64 she described the five koshas but neglects to explain what they're covering. Instead, she confuses Anandamaya Kosha (the bliss sheath) with the Atman or soul. "'The bliss sheath is the truest self, the self most connected to the divine.'" No, even Anandamaya kosha is not the real, real self. It too is a covering (and, according to my guru, many yogis get stuck there because it is so pleasant, and go no further).

-Page 121's description of alternate nostril breathing is not correct. "You held your right hand to your nose, held your right nostril shut with your thumb while you breathed through your left nostril, held the breath for a bit, and then held the left nostril with your forefinger while you breathed out through your right nostril." Not the forefinger - which represents the ego and doesn't touch the face. The middle finger.

-On page 135 she says the two main Nadis (energy channels) are Ida and Pingala. There are actually three main Nadis: Ida (left), Pingala (right) and Shoshumna (the biggie in the middle).


NOTE: I got this book from the library. They let you order books online (and call you when they arrive). You can even renew online. Heck, I've head they even have something called e-books nowadays.


  1. Anonymous5:10 PM

    Re alternate nostril breathing: I suppose it matters which/whose system one is refering to. Dharma's is thumb and middle finger? Kriya yoga teaches it using Shiva mudra: thumb, and ring & little finger, with index and middle fingers tightly closed against the palm. Kundalini yoga teaches it using thumb and litle finger. I have been in classes where the instruction has been to use thumb and index finger, with the thumb representing ego and the index finger, wisdom. It wasn't specified which tradition this is from.

  2. Yes, there are many methods. Something for everyone. (Or, as I just read on the internet - one may do it any way they like, with whatever hand feels good to them).

    The italics were meant to signify a certain facetiousness.

    At the same time, it came across as a error in the book. It seemed liked the author was learning Anuloma Viloma from fairly traditional teachers. And traditionally, in Vishnu Mudra, the index and middle finger are closed. Traditionally, the index represents the ego.