Yoga is so mainstream in America it’s no longer enough to tell someone that you practice. People want to know if you do ashtanga, hatha, bikram, power, yin, aerial, or some other form. Hundreds of books have been written about yoga and its benefits; these are often written by practitioners who may be expert yogis, but are amateur writers. Finally, the best of the literary and yogic traditions converges in Going Om: Real-Life Stories On and Off the Yoga Mat, edited by Melissa Carroll.
Both writers and yoga students seek to make meaning of this wildly miraculous human experience.
In the forward, bestselling author Cheryl Strayed states that this collection is not only about yoga, but also what it means to be human. Thirteen essayists with vastly different experiences and writing styles examine life. A few explore what it means to be self-conscious as a 370-pound yogi, as a Buddhist home wrecker at her stepdaughter’s wedding, and as woman with an artificial leg who wishes for the perfect body. Anxiety, guilt, and learning how to overcome attachment are common themes. Guilty secrets, such as not practicing often or with the right intention, are revealed. Savasana, the Corpse Pose, is a favorite of a few of these writers. The final essay, written by Linda Knopp, analyzes how her approach to yoga has changed decade by decade.
This is not an instruction manual or a self-help book. Instead, the writers rip away the reverence that usually surrounds yoga. These writers talk about sweat, tears, sex, illness, mortality, and other subjects not commonly talked about in conversations about yoga. Life keeps barging in, interrupting yoga practice, yet it is yoga that helps the writers to be successful in life. It is not a paradox, but a quest for balance through continual adjustment both on and off the yoga mat. Through all the struggles, yoga is there to offer a chance not at happiness, but at transcendence. In their own way, each writer reveals their own journeys toward this ultimate goal.
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