Book Review: Poser

Poser: My Life in Twenty-Three Yoga Poses by Claire Dederer

Part memoir, part meditation, Poser is the witty and moving tale of one woman's journey through marriage and motherhood, distilled through the prism of yoga. Faced with the hyper-political correctness of her ultra-hip late-90's "liberal enclave" neighborhood in North Seattle (a place where "people don't have BEWARE OF DOG signs...they have PLEASE BE MINDFUL OF DOG" signs), Claire Dederer pursues yuppie virtue with a vengeance: breast-feeding, cooking organic meals from scratch, eschewing plastic toys, volunteering at the childcare co-op, working full-time, and arranging date nights with her husband. Physically and emotionally burnt out, Claire turns to the practice of yoga, a practice she begins with vague notions about stress relief, but which becomes increasingly a therapeutic refuge from that idealized version of womanhood to which she had so desperately aspired. 

Each chapter of the book is anchored by a yoga pose, the asana providing a metaphor for her musings on a particular aspect of her life (Child's Pose for recalling salient pieces of her own childhood and so on). Through yoga, Claire eventually comes to better understand both her own neuroses and the sub-cultural forces that had whipped her and an entire generation of her peers into the frenzied pursuit of perfection.

Some critics have compared Poser to Elizabeth Gilbert's Eat, Pray, Love, but aside from the obvious parallels of being female autobiographies that employ yoga-as-metaphor-for-life to varying degrees, the two are, in fact, very different stories. While Gilbert finds salve in the external--her travels illuminating key revelations about herself and her failed marriage--Claire ultimately rejects the trappings of the external world, instead turning inward to discover that the "reality" she'd unquestioningly accepted her whole life is, in fact, an illusion.

Yogis especially will appreciate Claire's encounters with the various styles of yoga (vinyasa, restorative, etc.), with humorously observed descriptions of each, but non-yogis will just as strongly relate to the universality of Claire's journey. In fact, a large part of the book's appeal was in recognizing pieces of myself in Claire and the ensuring catharsis of commiserating with her anxieties (many of which mirror my own) and then laughing with her (and by extension, at myself) as she so aptly dissects those same worries and fears.

Bottom line? Poser is an engaging reminder of the counterintuitive beauty that happens when we stop trying to be good--at yoga or in life--and instead allow ourselves to just be.

Have any of you read it?  If so, I'd love to hear your thoughts.


Meg said...

i'm adding this to my list of "requested" books at the local library... you always have great taste in books! ps, enjoy The Help, it's fantastic :)
xo meg

shelly said...

i haven't but it has been on my amazon wish list :)


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