By: Suzanne Morrison
In love with every form of yoga from the circus like aerial yoga (my personal favorite), to yin yoga and the ever-accessible restorative yoga, to some kick-your-ass Hatha flow sequences, this book captured my eye right off the bat. I’m hardly your traditional yogi (indeed, after a season of ferocious wedding planning I am just now getting my zen back on full force). I don’t eat properly, I drink coffee almost as often as I breath, and while I’m spiritual (Christian) I’m skeptical about all the chakra stuff and prefer my yoga more exercise oriented with some generic spirituality that I then apply to my own worldview. I can’t do handstands and be totally badass, but yoga releases something in me – makes me free and finally in my body, which considering my bookish, head-among-the-clouds mentality, is a true grounding – an enjoyable coming-down-to-earth and the basics experience. So I was pretty fascinated by the memoir of a skeptic, swearing, cigarette smoking, coffee-aholic yogi who decides to embark on the yoga path.
Suzanne Morrison is a rare treat – a brutally honest memoir writer who neither covers her own past mistakes and youthful hubris nor judges the phases of her life and learning experiences. Here we are truly in her head the entire time for the good, the bad, and the subliminal yearning. Morrison is a died in the wool atheist with a proud story of rejecting her Catholic family’s traditional confirmation. Yet, she likes the trappings of religion and worship, the glory and beauty of ritual as it were, and despite not believing in God, is constantly searching for Him and is, thereby, very conflicted. This right here makes you want to give Morrison some serious applause. She admits that she doesn’t know, doesn’t get it, and is conflicted between her heart and what she considers her intellect. Doubt is the pervading theme of the story, whether its doubt about God’s existence, doubt about the perfection of our worldly idols (in this case Morison’s supposedly enlightened yoga teacher), doubt about our life’s path and decisions, and of course, doubt about all those pretzel yoga poses. Morrison’s worldview couldn’t possibly be more polar opposite than my own, yet I tip my hat to this lady with respect because she lays out her conflicts and feelings without sugar coating and with sheer, palpable honesty. If you don’t sympathize, then you’re just not human.
The existential struggle with God isn’t the only epicenter of Morrison’s awakening to adult sensibilities (she starts the narrative at 25 and is seeking, but not quite sure exactly what – meaning perhaps, direction, self-identity, maybe all of the above). Indra, Morrison’s blissed out yoga teacher who has convinced her to take a two month, give-up the booze and cigs full-fledged yoga retreat in Bali, goes from idol to human. The transition between worshipful love, questioning, and eventual hate, back into something later more tempered with understanding and perception, is raw. Morrison captures the violence of her transition from honoring Indra to loathing her as a fake with the irony of distance and the admittance that youth, which thinks it knows everything, truly knows nothing.
Of course, readers have our own perceptions of Indra, especially with Suzanne’s sarky voice in our ears and her ability to be serious and talk about the entire human condition while just being plain hilarious at the same time. As a yoga lover myself (who started the book all mesmerized and with ideas of retreats and trips and flickering candles beside colorful yoga mats), the silly side of taking anything too damn seriously soon had me in stiches. When Morrison’s fellow acolytes begin the day with a cup of their own urine (urine therapy being one of Indra’s big things) her path to enlightenment grinds to a half. Merge those ridiculous instances in with the prevailing superstition of Bali (Indra and hubby soon have an exorcism ceremony for a possessed kitchen appliance – and its all so serious) and you have some riotous moments for Morrison’s brand of searing sarcasm and laugh-out-loud irreverence. You’re also reminded to never get into something too much… ugh, cancel that yoga retreat.
Morrison eventually comes back to look at her yoga retreat as an awakening of sorts, just not the type she had expected. Instead of becoming spiritually alive (despite achieving, and viciously bragging about a kundalini awakening) Morrison is more aware in an earthly sense of her own shortcomings, judgements, and ability to fall-off-the-wagon (her decision to cheat on the stringent yoga diet is hilariously rendered and makes for some of the best moments in the entire narrative). Yet, in the conclusion, years later when new life choices and revelations have occurred to her (including the entire boyfriend debacle and “the sailor” – read for yourself!!) she is still seeking. Morrison is open to her questioning side but in a more kind manor, more circumspect and less judgmental with the realization that sometimes awakenings are temporary or years in the making. Ultimately, Yoga Bitch is that rare breed of memoir which teaches us something about ourselves and people in general while being relatable, down-to-earth, and above all, side-splittingly funny.
– Frances Carden
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