A little background: A while back, I found out that author Neal Pollack was asking for help in funding his yoga teacher training. Pollack is a snarky humor writer who plays video games and smokes pot, not the kind of person you’d imagine as a yoga teacher. So feeling very patronly, my husband and I chipped in to Neal’s Kickstarter account, and he did end up going to yoga teacher school, albeit with an injury. In return, we received several books, including an advance copy of the yoga memoir: Stretch: The Unlikely Making of a Yoga Dude. I think the book just came out last week, and coincidentally, that’s just when I got around to reading it.
What it’s about: As I said before, Pollack is not what you’d imagine to be a yoga type. As he explains in the first chapter of his memoir, earlier in his career he tried to be the “bad boy” punk rocker of contemporary literature, which didn’t work out too well for him. He came to yoga via his local 24-hour gym in Austin at just the right time in his life, when he really needed to make a change, and he embraced it wholeheartedly, much to the annoyance of his long-suffering wife.
That doesn’t mean he embraced all of yoga culture, which can be as self-indulgent and silly as any other multi-million-dollar industry. He writes about yoga rock festivals, acro-yoga, show-offs and teachers who talk too much about themselves in class with appropriate disdain. He doesn’t go easy on himself, either, such as when he spends quite a few very funny pages describing his efforts to suppress his farting in class.
But that doesn’t mean there’s not a lot of good in yoga, too, and Pollack writes about that aspect openly and without snark, from the really interesting teachers he is fortunate enough to have, to the gradual changes yoga makes on his own personality. In short, he stops being an asshole because of yoga. And as he keeps pointing out, yoga people are nice. We need a lot more nice people in this world.
Why I liked it: I have studied yoga off and on for several years, so for me it was particularly interesting when Pollack discussed the philosophy and history of yoga, although I have to wonder if he skims too much over these concepts for the layperson to follow. No matter. Pollack’s funny, entertaining memoir has inspired me to make yoga a regular part of my life again. After all, if this guy can do it, then I certainly can.
You might like it if: You’re a guy who’s curious about yoga? This book inspired my husband to take up the practice.