Saturday, January 1, 2011

"Stretch" Under Review

Stretch - The Unlikely Making of a Yoga Dude by Neal Pollack is uncomfortably close to a book I wanted to write. If that's not enough of a bias disclosure for you, then reader beware: this entire entry is written under the coercive pressure of a New Year's resolution. Stretch is, mostly, Mr. Pollack's memoir of his own journey through the world of yoga, and it comes close to being a great read.

There is humor, even a few laugh out loud moments, as Pollack takes advantage of the chasm between the yoga ideal (or in some cases, stereotype) and his cynical, dissolute self. The funny stuff is funny enough so I wanted more. Yoga produces a surprising amount of humor, and Stretch could have mined some additional veins. Watch this space for a chart comparing some well known schools/disciplines/styles of Yoga, you will see what I mean.

Stretch also sideswipes a fair amount of information on yoga's history, current schools of yoga practice and some of the "stars" of yoga. Pollack is stretching the memoir format at times, but he finds a nice balance. A few sections stop just short of "author uses elementary level research to pad book" but on the whole I learned a lot of interesting stuff with more laughs than pain. If Mr. Pollack issues his own version of the Vedas, I'll be eager to read them.

The glaring failure here is lack of depth and honesty. Mr. Pollack does reveal some trying moments, but mostly he's writing as a lovable curmudgeon. One who doesn't want to look very hard at why he's still smoking weed on a very regular basis after years of yoga practice. One who seems to give almost no thought to his young son as he ponders extended trips for yoga teacher training programs or workshops. The result is a curmudgeon not quite so lovable as Mr. Pollack would like us to believe. Nonetheless, Stretch held my interest. Even pretty good humor is hard to find in the yoga library and painless learning is not easy to come by.

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