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Yoga Bitch: One Woman's Quest to Conquer Skepticism, Cynicism, and Cigarettes on the Path to Enlightenment (Anglais) Broché – 16 août 2011

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1. Indrasana

. . . and before Kitty knew where she was, she found herself not merely under Anna’s influence, but in love with her, as young girls do fall in love with older and married women . . .

—leo tolstoy, Anna Karenina

Today I found myself strangely moved by a yoga teacher who spoke like a cross between a phone-sex operator and a poetry slam contestant. At the start of class, she asked us to pretend we were floating on a cloud. As she put it, “You’re oh-pening your heart to that cloud, you’re floating, you’re blossoming out and tuning in, you’re evanescing, yeah, that’s right, you’re evanescing.”

I briefly contemplated giving the teacher my yoga finger and walking out. I’ve been practicing yoga for close to a decade now, and at thirty-four I’m too old for that airy-fairy horseshit. As far as I’m concerned, floating on a cloud sounds less like a pleasant spiritual exercise and more like what you think you’re doing when you’re on LSD while falling out of an airplane. But I tuned out her mellifluous, yogier-than-thou voice and soon enough found myself really meditating. Of course, I was meditating on punching this yoga teacher in the face, but still.

At the end of class, she asked us to join her in a chant: gate, gate, paragate, parasamgate . . . which means, she said, her voice shedding its yogabot tones, gone, gone, gone beyond. She was young, a little cupcake of a yoga teacher in her black and gray yoga outfit. Maybe she was twenty-five. Maybe younger. She said her grandmother had recently passed away, and she wanted to chant for her and for all of our beloveds who had already gone beyond. In that moment, I forgave her everything, wanted to button up her sweater and give her a cup of cocoa. I chanted gone, gone, gone beyond for her beloveds and for mine, and for the twenty-five-year-old I once was.

I turned twenty-five the month after September eleventh, when the stories of those who had gone beyond that day were fresh and ubiquitous. I was working three jobs to save money to move from Seattle to New York, and whether I was at the law firm, at the pub, or taking care of my grandparents’ bills, the news was on, and it was all bad. So many people looking for the remains of the people they loved. So many images of the planes hitting the towers, the smoke, the ash.

I had never really been afraid of death before that year. I thought I had worked all that out by the age of seventeen, when I concluded that so long as one lives authentically, one dies without fear or regret. As a teenager, it seemed so simple: if I lived my life as my authentic self wished to live, then death would become something to be curious about; one more adventure I would experience on my own terms.

Religion was an obstacle to authenticity, I figured, especially if you were only confirming in the Catholic Church so that your mother wouldn’t give you the stink-eye for the rest of your life. So, at seventeen, I told my mother I wouldn’t be confirming. That Kierkegaard said each must come to faith alone, and I hadn’t come to faith—and she couldn’t make me.

This was all well and good for a teenager who secretly believed herself to be immortal, as my countless speeding tickets suggested I did. But by twenty-five the idea of death as an adventure struck me as idiotic. As callous, heartless, and, most of all, clueless. Death wasn’t an adventure; it was a near and ever-present void. It was the reason my throat ached when I watched my grandfather try to get up out of his chair. It was the reason we all watched the news with our hands over our mouths.

I had recently graduated from college, having postponed my studies until I was twenty-one in order to follow my authentic self to Europe after high school. Now I was supposed to leave for New York by the following summer. Before the attack on lower Manhattan, I had been nervous about moving to New York, but now what was supposed to be a difficult but necessary rite of passage felt more like courting my own annihilation.

Everywhere I looked, I saw death. My move to New York was the death of my life in Seattle, of a life shared with my family and friends. Given the precariousness of our national security, it seemed as if moving away could mean never seeing them again. I remember wondering how long it would take me to walk home from New York should there be an apocalypse. I figured it would take a while. This worried me.

Even when I wasn’t filling my head with postapocalyptic paranoid fantasies, death was out to get me. Once we got to New York, my boyfriend, Jonah, and I would move in together, and I knew what that meant. That meant marriage was coming, and after marriage, babies. And only one thing comes after babies. Death.

I came down with cancer all the time. Brain cancer, stomach cancer, bone cancer. Even trimming my fingernails reminded me that time was passing, and death was coming. Those little boomerangs of used-up life showed up in the sink week after week.

I measured out my life in toenail clippings.

“Stop thinking like that!” my sister said.

“I can’t.”

“Just try. You haven’t even tried.”

My sister, Jill, has always been the wisest, the most grounded, of my three siblings. But she couldn’t teach me how to live in the face of death, not then. But Indra could.

Indra was a woman, a yoga teacher, a god. Indra taught me how to stand on my head, how to quit smoking, and then lifted me off this Judeo-Christian continent, to fly over miles and miles of indifferent ocean, before dropping me down on a Hindu island in the middle of a Muslim archipelago at the onset of the War on Terror. Indra was my first yoga teacher and I loved her. I loved her with the kind of ambivalence I’ve only ever had about God, and every man I’ve ever left.

Indra introduced me to the concept of union. That’s what hatha yoga is all about, uniting mind and body, masculine and feminine, and, most of all, the individual self with the indivisible Self—who some call God.

When I was seventeen, I was proud that I had chosen not to confirm into the Catholic Church. I figured everybody I told—all those sane people in the world who did not share my crazypants DNA—would agree with me. I was right; most of them, especially my artist friends, did. But one teacher, my drama teacher, said something I’ve never forgotten. After rehearsal one day, she listened indulgently while I bragged about my lack of faith, a half-smile on her face. Then she said, “It’s okay to fall away from the Church when you’re young. You’ll come back when people start dying.”

People were starting to die. And as if my drama teacher had seen something in the prop room’s crystal ball, spiritual memoirs started accumulating on the floor beside my bed. I told no one what books I was reading. If I had, I wouldn’t have said that I was reading them in the hopes of finding God. I would have said that they were works of fiction, really, redemption narratives dressed up in the styles and mores of different times and places. I would never have admitted that what kept me reading was the liberating expansion I felt in my lungs as narrator after narrator was transformed from lost into found.

Maybe that’s what led me to Indra. I don’t know. All I know is that one night in the fall of 2001, I walked in off the street to my first real yoga class. I had done yoga in acting classes, and once or twice at the gym where my sister worked, so I knew the postures already. I had never been especially attracted to the idea of a yoga practice, but now I walked into this studio as if I had spent all day weeping in the garden like Saint Augustine, waiting for a disembodied voice to sing, Pick your ass up off the lawn furniture and go work your shit out, for the love of God.

That night, I stepped out of the misty Seattle dusk and into a warm, dimly lit studio. Candlelight glinted off the hardwood floors. The low thrum of monks chanting emanated from an unseen speaker, and a stunningly beautiful woman with straight, honey-colored hair sat perfectly still in front of a low altar at the front of the room. Indra. She wore flax-colored cotton pants and a matching tank top. Tan, blonde, tall: I’ve never been one to worship at the altar of such physical attributes. It was more the way she sat, still and yet fluid, that attracted me, and her eyes, which were warm and brown, with friendly crow’s-feet lengthening toward her hairline.

Soon we were stretching and lunging and sweating. The lights stayed low and her voice stayed soft, so that eventually it almost seemed as if her instructions were coming from inside my head. Toward the end of class, we were doing something ridiculously hard, lying on our backs with our legs hovering a foot off the ground until my abdominal muscles felt like they would burst. Without realizing it, I had folded my hands at my solar plexus. “That’s a good idea,” Indra said, nodding at my hands as she kneeled beside me to adjust my hips. “It always helps me to pray when I don’t know what I’m doing.”

I had to laugh at how baldly she acknowledged my incompetence, but even as I laughed I wanted to point out to her that I hadn’t been praying. I had been thinking, Kill me. Please kill me. I wouldn’t pray. Who on earth was there to pray to? Or, for that matter, who not on earth?

But by the end of class I was thanking the gods for this teacher. Before I left, I wrote her a check for a month’s worth of classes, and told her I’d be back soon.

Indra co-owned the little studio on Capitol Hill with her partner, Lou. Lou was older than Indra by at least ten years, but they were both the same height and weight—both tall, both strong. That was one of the first things Indra told me when I asked her about Lou, as if this were proof that she and Lou had been designed for one another. I didn’t go to Lou’s classes much—afterwards I always felt like my tendons had turned to rubber bands, but he was too intense and his gaze too penetrating for me. Also, his classes were full of smelly drum-circle types. But Indra’s classes felt like home.

I don’t know if I can fully express how bizarre a statement that was. Indra’s classes felt like home. Not long before I met Indra, I would’ve mocked myself mercilessly for saying such a thing. Before her, my idea of exercise was walking up the hill to buy smokes. Rearranging my bookshelves. Having sex. Maybe an especially vigorous acting exercise. Most of the time I lived above the neck.

I’m a reader. Being a reader means I like to be in small, warm places like beds and bathtubs, whether I’m reading or snoozing or staring at dust motes in a shaft of sunlight. At twenty-five, the idea of physical exertion put me in a panic. I would actually get angry, sometimes, when I saw people jogging, sort of in the same way I would get angry at people who wanted me to believe in a God who requires us to be miserable all the time if we’re to get into heaven. All joggers believed in an afterlife, I figured. They must; why else would they be wasting so much time in this life, which by all rational accounts is short and finite? In my hometown the population was split. Half the people in Seattle jogged and believed in an afterlife, and the other half read and believed in Happy Hour.

At twenty-five I was firmly entrenched in the latter half of Seattle’s population, so it came as an absolute shock, not just to me but to everyone who knew me, when I found myself going to Indra’s yoga studio in leggings and tank tops four times a week, sometimes more, to sweat and stretch and experience what it was to use my body for something other than turning over in bed. I would arrive at the studio feeling like I’d spent the day tied by the ankles to Time’s bumper, my fingernails scraping the earth. I walked out upright, fluid, graceful, as if Indra herself was the pose I needed to master. My acting teachers were always telling us to find characters through their walks, that if we could physically embody our characters, we could begin to map their mental and emotional landscapes. So, when I walked somewhere alone, I walked like Indra. Spine erect, chin lowered, I was all straight lines when I was Indra—tall and long, my softer curves elongating into her ballerina sinew. My steps were deliberate and faithful. No need to look down; Indra would trust the terrain.

In class I watched the way she eased her body into each pose. No matter how excruciating the posture was for me, no matter how mangled and unbalanced I felt in it, Indra’s face was always calm. She seemed to be somewhere beyond the pose, even, as if she were only faintly aware that her body was being sculpted into the posture by an unseen hand, her arms pulled into perfect alignment, trunk twisted and massaged, the arches of her feet caressed into graceful caverns. Her toes splayed out one by one like the feathers in a burlesque dancer’s fan.

Indra made me want to buy things. Things like hair straighteners. Even Indra’s hair expressed a certain serenity, while my wavy, fluffy hair, forever escaping its hairbands, said no such thing about me.

She made me want to buy yoga mats and books with titles like City Karma and Urban Dharma and A Brooklyn Kama Sutra. I left her class every morning and walked straight to Trader Joe’s, as if the purchase of organic cheese and tomatoes and biodynamic bubble bath was an extension of my yoga practice.

And according to Yoga Journal, it was.

But the most amazing thing of all was that Indra made me want to quit smoking. After class one morning, just as I was putting on the long wool coat I had worn out to the bar the night before, she asked me if I was a smoker.

Revue de presse

"Yoga Bitch is an unabashedly romantic book, in the very best way--like watching your funniest, most sardonic friend realize that she's head-over-heels in love." --Claire Dederer, Author of Poser: My Life in Twenty-Three Poses

"A smart, funny, and keenly observed travelogue of a modern yogini’s quest for awakening. Yoga Bitch flows like a quirky vinyasa, with each pose just twisted enough to be hilarious." --Anne Cushman, author of Enlightenment for Idiots: A Novel

"Suzanne Morrison has been through the yoga wars, she has the literal scars to prove it, and she's produced a hilarious and thoughtful memoir."--Neal Pollack, author of Stretch

“Brings the higher path down to Earth with refreshing honesty.”--Kirkus Reviews

“Thoughtful, honest, and hilarious.”—Publishers Weekly 

“I love this book. In an era of so much truth telling and blogging and reality shows we forget how well true stories can be told, when they’re in the right hands. Yoga Bitch has sucked me in and made me laugh and made me think about my own spiritual fucked-up state. You had me at 'Do they make you eat your own poop.'" – Lauren Weedman, Author of A Woman Trapped in a Woman’s Body and former Daily Show correspondent

“Morrison is unflinchingly honest, poking easy fun at herself, her companions, and her surroundings…The lessons from Bali ultimately led her to stop pursuing the life she was supposed to want and start leading the one that nourishes her.” –Patty Wetli, Booklist
“Writer/performer Morrison offers a totally different take on the yoga experience…she candidly discusses her issues with meditation, exercise, and relationships.” –Library Journal 

"Yoga Bitch had me hooked. It's a hilarious read by an author who isn't afraid to delve into the messy innards of yoga culture." -Jenny Rough, Whole Life Times

"Morrison's funny riff on yoga and perspective." - Dan Kois, New York Magazine

"[Morrison's] funny and honest discussion about her yogic journey is riveting and revolting, raw and fresh, and immensely enjoyable." -Nancy Alder, Elephant Journal

"Wickedly entertaining yet tragically honest." -Chatelaine.com
"Had me laughing out loud at the author’s irreverent commentary by the second page, and, ultimately unable to put the book down until a very un-yogic early morning hour [...] I couldn’t recommend Yoga Bitch more highly." -- Jay Winston, Elephant Journal
"Morrison offers a fresh and new voice in the yoga memoirs genre that is one part deeply exploratory and another giggle-inducing." -- Nancy Alder, Yoga Dork
“Suzanne Morrison recounts her reformative journey at a two-month yoga retreat in Bali with a sense of humor so wicked it would even make Bikram sweat a little.” –Dorothy Robinson, Metro
“Morrison is a funny and engaging writer, at once sincere about her spiritual aspirations and aware of all the clichés they entail.” --Laura Moser, Slate.com

“[YOGA BITCH] is a hilarious, thoughtful and only occasionally profane account of one young woman facing mortality and bad habits head on […]Morrison is whip-smart and irreverent.” - Amy Scribner, Bookpage. 

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Amazon.com: 100 commentaires
67 internautes sur 76 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Journey more important than the destination. SPOILER 29 décembre 2011
Par Luciana - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Broché Achat vérifié
I admit that I am not entirely sure what I was expecting out of this book. Maybe I expected too much, who knows. The cover was intriguing, and the first few pages - promising. I will say that I did enjoy the book; it's light, funny, and surprisingly well written for this subject matter. It made me laugh out loud on many moments, and for this reason alone, I heartily recommend it...

However, I'm not sure that there was a lot of introspection on the author's part. It seems to me that she had a minor life crisis, and needed to get out. That's fine, we've all been there. Yet to me she merely replaced one obsession (the boyfriend) with another - yoga, only to replace it all with another boyfriend. Most of the time, I feel she was winging the whole experience, rather than truthfully transcending. I DO recognize the possibility that in the end Yoga does absolutely nothing for the spirit, and that the author is still in process of discovering herself. I just didn't see the growth in her. I don't think she really tried to "conquer skepticism, cynicism, and cigarettes..." I think she just quit in favor of being who she is, faults and all - and that is totally fine.

Accepting yourself, faults and all is a total win -- so why the 3 stars?

Mainly because it ended with a somewhat cliche conclusion - get a man. Even her friend got one in the end. The book reminds me of "Eat, Pray, Love", a lot of soul searching and traveling to absolutely awesome destinations, only to discover the answer was in love. Relationships are GREAT, people - but IT IS very cliche when it comes to a story's ending. It's very...Sex in the City - smart, talented women who don't feel complete until prince charming comes along with all the answers.

It's been there done that. Nevertheless, the journey is truly better than the destination. It was a great read. I liked it for its sincerity, its unapologetic look at the world and religion, and perhaps even a truthful opinion that yoga ain't all it's cut out to be.

I just wish it had a better more original ending, that's all.
17 internautes sur 19 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Perfect!!! Sweet and sincere yet sarcastic and funny 11 septembre 2011
Par DLK88 - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Broché
I loved this book! I loved it enough to compare it to Eat Love Pray, which was lifeline for me after going through my own divorce and trying to rediscover my own spirituality. I think many readers will identify with this book; people who are attracted to yoga are often on similar journeys.

Yoga Bitch is a wonderful travel-spiritual quest story. Suzanne Morrison is funny, intelligent and very self-aware. She describes her quest in a very sincere and earnest manner, yet she is no fool. She's smart enough to see hypocrisy when it's in front of her. Her commentary is absolutely hysterical--I laughed out loud multiple times.

What I particularly enjoyed is that she's very self-aware. In contrast to Eat Love Pray, she doesn't overly romanticize Bali. She see poverty, sexism, and hypocrisy for what it is and she's not afraid to cry "bull----". In addition while she was struggling along her personal journey, she was self-aware enough to basically say: "Poor me, right??? Here I am in gorgeous Bali on a yoga retreat for 2 months and I'm unhappy. Boo hoo." I loved Eat Love Pray, but I think Elizabeth Gilbert got too wrapped up in her own story sometimes.

All in all, this story was extremely engaging. I find that I want to know more about Suzanne's story. I want to know if she finds "happily ever after"? Is she still in love? Does she ever resolve her spiritual questions? This book definitely goes on my "read once a read" shelf and I anxiously await a second novel!
12 internautes sur 15 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Must read for the real yogi 23 août 2011
Par Meredith Leblanc - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Broché Achat vérifié
This book is an easy read in terms of the language and her writing style. I have found in some memoirs about yogic journeys the authors go off on flowery spells that, quite frankly, I get lost in but not in a good way. Suzanne Morrison' frank writing style uses humor, humility, and honesty that allows the reader to step into her shoes and experience what she's seeing first hand.

I found myself saying "I know exactly what that's like" when she talks about her relationship with her teacher Indra, who starts out on a very high pedestal and in the end is seen as perfectly flawed as her students. I giggled many times about the crazy dreams she had about her other teacher Lou. I felt my stomach cramp as she described her bout of Bali Belly. Over and over again I nodded my head to familiarity I felt to her experience.

This isn't an airy fairy account of one yogis journey to enlightenment; it's a balls out real ride to realization flowered with farting, pissing, douching, loving, breathing, laughing, crying, asana-ing, and finding truth.
9 internautes sur 11 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Utterly Readable 20 octobre 2011
Par Catherine F. Weiss - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Broché
I grew up in the same town as Suzanne Morrison; went to the same high school, and even the same church I think, so it was really interesting for me reading her memoir. I too am an actor and writer, and I've recently found my way back to a yoga practice, so I identified with many aspects of her journey. Yoga Bitch read sort of like a self-help manual for me. Suzanne's journey, and the lessons she has learned acted kind of like signposts for me. "Watch out for this one, Catherine, this one could be big for you."

I breezed through this book-it was fun to read. More importantly though, it's an example of someone looking back at her experiences with wit and humility, fearlessly searching for the lesson. We live in a world lacking in self-awareness. I don't think that most people have the courage to look at their path and ask if they're on the right one. No one wants to question their integrity or motives or whether they acted like the best version of themselves. Suzanne does that with courage. It's inspiring.
3 internautes sur 3 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
The Life You Save May Be Your Own 27 mai 2012
Par S. P. Miskowski - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Broché Achat vérifié
Yoga Bitch is one of the funniest and most disarmingly honest memoirs I've read. (And I've read plenty.) Suzanne Morrison avoids the most common mistake of the form, which is to present a persona in place of the person. It's understandable that most authors writing their recollection of a certain moment in their lives will soften the edges a bit, making themselves seem nicer, more clever, more decent. By doing this, however, they render their memories of the past useless. What I want from memoir is brutal self-examination, tempered by wit and intelligence. And this is what Morrison delivers. Every page is both mortifying and enlightening. The entire book is wonderfully written, with meticulous attention to detail and merciless attention to human behavior. Morrison writes as if her life depends on it. And thank goodness, because this is the only kind of memoir from which we can ever learn anything.

If you want to wallow in the exotic travels of an adventurous soul, you can do that. The backdrop is, indeed, splendid. But the heart of this tale is the gradual accumulation of an adult self-awareness. There are the requisite moments of epiphany, but they are quickly deflated and revealed to contain youthful ego and a fair degree of ignorance. That the author is willing to admit these things is refreshing. That she learns from her (often outrageously funny) mistakes is what makes her story amusing, universal, and profound. She is a wise and good person looking back on callow youth with clear eyes and an open heart.

I love this book. I've read it three times and will read it many more. I hope you will, too.
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