I finished B.K.S. Iyengar’s Light on Life not too long ago. My big take away after this first reading (I expect there will be many more readings) is the intense power of the well constructed narrative.
So much of what Iyengar shared in Light on Life I remember from Geshe Michael Roach’s book How Yoga Works. One of the first “yoga books” I ever read, the story of yoga is told through a young woman, who is presented with many opportunities to both live and teach yoga. How Yoga Works is never far from my bedside and a text I return to again and again. I can overlook the arguments that some people make against the novel because the arc of the story is so strong. I am deeply and personally engaged, every time, in the young woman’s story and her interactions with the people around her. Every time I want her succeed. I need her to succeed.
Claire Dederer, author of Poser: My Life in Twenty-Three Yoga Poses, put it perfectly when she wrote (paraphrasing here since my copy’s back at the library): “I go to the fiction, that’s where the emotions live.” This short statement resonated with me so much I wanted to throw down the book and shout “HALLELUJAH!” In one, short sentence she capture why I choose to read fiction over non-fiction, and why, in any point of life crisis, I look for related fiction. Novels are all about emotion. Seeing others struggle, survive and thrive (or not) is how I learn. It’s part of my processing. It’s no wonder How Yoga Works has caught me … hook, line and sinker.
As I learn more about the technicalities of yoga, (yamas, niyamas, kosas, bandhas, etc…), it’s all there in How Yoga Works, but without the Sanskrit language barrier. Instead, it’s embedded in a narrative that makes you care. It matters. Don’t get me wrong, it matters in Light on Life and other seminal yoga books, too, but I’ve always found non-fiction harder to care about. When I read, I need my emotions to be engaged. Nothing’s makes me drop a book faster than people I don’t care about.
What about you? Fiction or Non-Fiction?
If you’re looking to read more about yoga and are a little daunted by all the non-fiction out there, rattling off Sanskrit names, Hindu deities and Buddhist philosophy, try How Yoga Works. It’s not perfect, but it tells one heck of a good story and is a perfect intro to yoga beyond the physical practice.