“yoga-themed chick-lit”: slate.com on the yoga memoir boom

The photo caption on Slate.com’s article on the yoga memoir as a lively new sub-genre says, “Writing about yoga is nearly as popular as practicing it.”

There is definitely some truth in that. The article takes a look at recent yoga-themed memoirs, including Suzanne Morrison’s Yoga Bitch: One Woman’s Quest to Conquer Skepticism, Cynicism, and Cigarettes on the Path to Enlightenment, Neal Pollack’s Stretch: The Unlikely Making of a Yoga Dude and Claire Deder’s Poser: My Life in Twenty-Three Poses.

“Since the 2006 publication of Elizabeth Gilbert’s blockbuster memoir Eat, Pray, Love, another trend has surfaced: the profusion of searching first-person narratives of yogic self-betterment,” notes writer and practitioner, Laura Moser in the article.

I find this interesting because I’m aware that, as a white, literate, self-betterment-seeking woman in my mid-30s, I am the target market for these books. In fact, if I’d had gotten my ass in gear, I could have published my own yoga memoir by this time: a gripping story of a woman lost and aimless in her late 20s, who moves to a North American ashram to find herself and then ends up editing a yoga magazine in a slightly sinful city, and finally finds contentment and self-acceptance as a yoga blogger. Fascinating!

I am also intrigued by Laura’s baseline complaint about these recent memoirs: “The yoga theme seemed, if you will, overstretched at times. Despite having intermittently practiced yoga for exactly a decade myself, I did get pretty tired of all the ‘yogic’ revelations dropped into these books as if by editorial fiat.”

Which is almost to say that the most interesting aspect of these memoirs is… life. Experience. And I have to wonder: is yoga writing more relevant and engaging when it doesn’t mention yoga?

I have to admit that I haven’t read any of the books mentioned in the article, although I’m currently working on Yoga Bitch (expect my review next week). I received a review copy of Poser during my blog moratorium, but gave it to a friend as a birthday present. I just couldn’t bring myself to read it (although after reading this piece, I’m intrigued again and may give it another shot).

The last yoga memoir I read was written by a swami in her late-60s (Carried By A Promise) after 30 years of practice, commitment and growth. I’ve also enjoyed Elizabeth Kadetsky’s First There Is a Mountain, published in 2004, before Eat, Pray, Love and the subsequent mass-market interest in the genre. While I believe in the power of storytelling and I think we all have something to learn from others’ lived experience, when it comes to my yoga-lit tastes, I prefer cultural history, philosophy and technique. If I’m looking for “the leap from mat to matters of the heart,” I’ll look within the yoga blogosphere, where the reflections are bite-sized and immediate.

Slate.com: Navel Gazing (The Rise of the Yoga Memoir)

  1. There is a huge difference between the chick-lit’ish memoirs of people who have done a few stretches, gone to India and reflected on relationships and having babies, and those like Radhananda’s ‘Carried by a Promise’ (who you mention) and Vickie Mackenzie’s ‘Cave in the Snow’ – accounts about people who have really taken the Teachings and the practices to heart. They show us that there is much, much more to life than meets the eye. Not only that, they show us that we can go far beyond what we may think is possible.

  2. Hi, Roseanne. Is this the same genre as Yoga School Dropout and Holy Cow?

    Bob

    • yoga school drop out gets mentioned in the article. I don’t know holy cow ~ is it a memoir?