NONFICTION CLAXON! NONFICTION CLAXON!
Aspirational is a bit of a dirty word to the normal person. It’s all Gwyneth Paltrow having steam cleanses of her intimate areas, Elle Macpherson wearing skintight rhinestone at 51, Deliciously Ella slathering nut butters and algae colonies onto gluten-free avocado patties. It all makes the contrary-minded among us snort in derision and eat more (dairy-)buttery toast. But we all have our poison or our nectar, depending on your perspective. And the bite of zeitgeisty delight that I am buying into at the moment is yoga.
This wasn’t summoned by the media, who seem to be whipping themselves up into peak-yoga, but by a local class I attended in the spring. Surely I’ve mentioned the fact that the world’s deepest nadir of sportiness, its depository of all uncoordinated and slow and flailing, is my body. But in this class I discovered, at its most vulnerable and post-natal, a way to talk to it. It was feeding my baby, it was up all night, it was sore, it was sorry. But I stretched it, and it felt grateful. I twisted my limbs around and felt my muscles sink towards the floor a little more. In a gentle teacher and quiet class I found something I’d never had before – an interaction between body and mind. One day after the class I just sat and cried. Because it’s a release. It’s being kind to yourself. It’s – well, laugh if you must, but it’s sort of special.
I have carried on “my practice” (that’s what they call it, yo) alone. It’s not the easiest thing when you don’t know what you’re doing – a word of advice here, a youtube tutorial there, some help from an app. And as good as all of these is a spot of shameless, aspirational encouragement. Step in, Yoga Girl. Yoga Girl, Rachel Brathen, is a yoga, and instagram phenomenon. A yoga teacher living in Aruba with 1.6 million followers of her lusciously aspirational feed, she pivots and turns and shares and everyone laps it up. Her feed is all mini videos of her routines, sometimes surrounded by puppies, and headstands on yoga-surfboards in the middle of turquoise waters (not an exaggeration, check it out) Much is accompanied with ridiculous yoga-speak – one recent caption “Breathe a bit of magic into the farthest corners of your soul #gratitude.” Part of me guffaws. But the other part of me is TIRED of ceaseless cynicism. Maybe I WANT to breathe a bit of magic into my soul and feel grateful for life. Sure, sometimes it’s too much – I’m not into “energy” or “the universe” or, woe betide, “crystals”. But mainly she just puts her life out there, and sometimes that means frank talk about crap things happening in her life – like her mother’s recent suicide attempt, not the first. She’s trying to be honest. She’s not stick thin (cover photo above rather misleading) and still posts bikini photos like it’s going out of fashion, And she’s setting up a charitable foundation/community platform of some complicated sort that I can’t quite fathom. Basically, I love her, and I bought her book.
The book consists of her life story, which is fairly interesting given her age (teenage tearabout from Sweden saved by meditation), some yoga routines and positions, which are good for the beginner like me, some risably vegan-health recipes, and the requisite beautiful photos. This sounds critical, and it’s no genre-breaker, but it delivers what you want it to – inspiration, uplift and lifestyle porn. It’s directed at yoga-newbies, more or less, and it brings you into that world with a white-teethed smile.
It is not practical to follow yoga routines from books. But this isn’t about buying a book. This is like buying a Vogue that actually uplifts you. Yes, it’s buying into a lifestyle wrapped in beauty – but isn’t it nice for the wrapped lifestyle presented to us downtrodden consumers to be edifying and wholesome? Ultimately, I’m saying everyone should take up yoga. There’d be fewer wars, and we’d be calmer, and marginally more toned. What’s not to like? And when it’s cold and wet and you need a bit of encouragement to shunt you up into your downward dog, maybe your hand will wander to the encouragement of a happy woman practicing by a Caribbean sea – and being honest about it.