Wednesday, November 14, 2012

"Misadventures of a Garden State Yogi" A Review

It's a sign of yoga's popularity and its assimilation into the popular imagination, that a whole new genre of "yoga memoir" has developed over the last few years.  Brian Leaf's contribution, Misadventures of a Garden State Yogi is one of the more enjoyable of the lot.

As Stephen Cope blurbs about Leaf's book, Brian Leaf "writes in an utterly winning voice -- by turns as neurotic as Woody Allen, as irreverent as Huck Finn, and as serious as Jack Kerouac." The self-effacing neurotic humor is perhaps my favorite aspect of this memoir, so that Leaf's taking himself down a bit (or as the Brits might say, 'taking the piss out' on himself) keeps the whole narrative from becoming a self-righteous, heroic pean to 'self.'

Leaf comes from the Kripalu tradition, though he's explored other forms of practice from Iyengar to Astanga, and so he stresses the more meditative, mindful self-exploration of that tradition. On the whole, it is a tradition that I have much affinity for. My only two criticisms, and really they are quite minor, are his falling at times into what I take for new-agey 'woo.' However, it never approaches the brain-dead status of so much contemporary yoga that is permeated with the inanities of The Secret or the kind of pontifications of Deepak Chopra. The other minor misgiving is Leaf's attempt to squeeze in more than the weight of this book can fully handle.

Here, what I am referring to is what amounts to an attempt to work in his interest and practice of Ayurveda. It is clear it is a major part of his practice and he even graduated from my alma mater, The New England Institute of Ayurvedic Medicine, but that subject is so vast that what he can manage to work into his tale comes across as more an 'add-on' than as intrinsic to his practice as I am sure it truly is.

But again, these quibbles are just that; quibbles. I found Leaf's tale funny, and insightful, and his gentle, friendly voice serves as a real friend along the path. Check it out!