Yoga Bitch : One Woman's Quest to Conquer Skepticism, Cynicism, and Cigarettes on the Path to Enlightenment
What happens when a coffee-drinking, cigarette-smoking, steak-eating twenty-five-year-old atheist decides it is time to get in touch with her spiritual side? Not what you'd expect...
When Suzanne Morrison decides to travel to Bali for a two-month yoga retreat, she wants nothing more than to be transformed from a twenty-five-year-old with a crippling fear of death into her enchanting yoga teacher, Indra--a woman who seems to have found it all: love, self, and God.
But things don't go quite as expected. Once in Bali, she finds that her beloved yoga teacher and all of her yogamates wake up every morning to drink a large, steaming mug...of their own urine. Sugar is a mortal sin. Spirits inhabit kitchen appliances. And the more she tries to find her higher self, the more she faces her cynical, egomaniacal, cigarette-, wine-, and chocolate-craving lower self.
Yoga Bitch chronicles Suzanne's hilarious adventures and misadventures as an aspiring yogi who might be just a bit too skeptical to drink the Kool-Aid. But along the way she discovers that no spiritual effort is wasted; even if her yoga retreat doesn't turn her into the gorgeously calm, wise believer she hopes it will, it does plant seeds that continue to blossom in surprising ways over the next decade of her life.
There are no customer reviews available at this time. Would you like to write a review?
Three Rivers Press
August 16, 2011
Number of Print Pages*
Adobe DRM EPUB
* Number of eBook pages may differ. Click here for more information.
Excerpt from Yoga Bitch by Suzanne Morrison
. . . 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.
"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.