Friday, February 18, 2011
Tales From The Yoga Studio: A Book Review
“Tales from the Yoga Studio” by Rain Mitchell is great fun. It was the perfect vacation read, filled with likable characters and simple but engaging story lines. I was hooked after the first paragraph. It starts off describing a tranquil scene in the studio and as lovely as it sounds, it’s really quite banal. Until... bam! This enlightened, LA yoga teacher is craving a cigarette. That’s the first clue that these characters are going to be fully human and that this novel is going to be a fun ride.
In the interest of full satya (truthfulness) I might be biased to like this book because the publisher sent me a free copy in their quest to spread the word. But after reading the back cover description I was actually more skeptical than anything. It is set in L.A. and is all about the transformative experience of yoga for a teacher in a hip neighborhood and her students. I confess that I have a certain prejudice about L.A. and it’s ‘yoga scene’. The characters in this book are typical L.A. types on the surface; a yoga teacher, an ex-addict massage therapist, successful actresses, the struggling dancer and the neurotic film developer. But after the first few chapters I couldn’t help but really like these ladies. And I found myself rooting for them to thrive in spite of the stereotypical (and sometimes hilarious) ‘yoga scene’ that surrounds them.
I find that the idea of yoga being a life-changing, transformative experience to be a rather dull concept for story telling. (I am not even a huge fan of Eat, Pray, Love... liked it, didn’t love it). Of course it can be transformative but it’s difficult to tell those stories without sounding cliche. "Tales from the Yoga Studio" avoids the cliche trap by not taking itself too seriously. The characters are drawn to yoga for very practical reasons. Yoga is a thread that weaves itself into the day-to-day challenges of their lives. It treats yoga, not as a deeply spiritual or aspirational experience, but as a realistic way to deal with stress, to get in shape, to bond with friends or to make a living. But it is through these experiences that their lives become richer, relationships deeper and vocational callings more clear.
Here’s an except from the book that exemplifies this pragmatic experience of yoga: There’s a moment in these classes when she finds herself rolling her eyes (“Take a few deep, poignant breaths and direct them toward that little storage space in your body where you keep you sadness”), but she does it anyway. And no matter how silly it sounds, it’s having some kind of effect. She doesn’t believe for one second that twisting her spine is helping to “wring out toxins” or whatever it’s supposed to be doing, but it is true that she’s started to feel as if a dark mood is being wrong out of her. Maybe she’s emptying out her “storage space.”
If you are looking for a light-hearted and fun read, order “Tales from the Yoga Studio” today: