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This week’s edition of Yoga Tattuesday comes from sunny San Diego, California, and appears on the foot of yogini Lindsey Anne Johnson.  Here’s a picture of Lindsey’s tattoo:

Lindsey’s tattoo, which appears on her left foot, is the word “prana” written in sanskrit.  As many of you yogis and yoginis know, the word “prana” is sanskrit for “vital life”, but it is an unbelievably dense and complex concept.  Essentially, the notion of “prana” stands for the idea that that there is a vital, life-sustaining force or energy contained within all beings.  It is a central concept in yogic and ayurvedic traditions (and is similar to the Chinese notion of Qi) where prana is believed to be contained in the breath, the blood, and other bodily secretions.  Oh yes!  In fact, in yoga, the breath is seen as a gateway to the world of prana and so the practice of pranayama (or simply, yogic breathing exercises) is a practice in which the control of prana is achieved by controlling one’s breath.

Lindsey says that she got her tattoo after her mom passed away.  And while the tattoo was born out of grief, it has encouraged Lindsey to keep going.  In fact, as Lindsey says, getting the tattoo was a simple reminder of one thing:  to breathe.

Lindsey has been practicing yoga since her first class 13 years ago.  She is currently a freelance writer and social media consultant.  You can check out her websitelindseyannejohnson.com.  While this tattoo is her first tattoo, she says she’s contemplating another one.  We’d love to see it when you get it, Lindsey!

Until then, thanks for sharing your story and your tattoo with us!

If you, or someone you love, has a yoga-inspired tattoo and would like to share it here, please complete the contact form on my Yoga Tattuesday Submissions page.  I look forward to seeing your yoga-inspired tattoos!

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I haven’t read Claire Dederer’s memoir Poser: My Life in 23 Yoga Poses, just yet.  But it is on my list.  I’ve been following the reviews, though, which have ranged from the positive (The Seattle Times called it “absorbing” calling Dederer’s voice “unusually genuine” and filled with “ubiquitous wit and honesty”) to the downright harsh (Rowan Pelling from The Telegraph declared that reading Poser solidified his New Year’s resolution: never to try yoga!)

Here’s the review from my hometown paper, The Los Angeles Times, written by Judith Lewis Mernit:

“Going to yoga was part of my goodness project,” writes Claire Dederer in her memoir, “Poser: My Life in Twenty-Three Yoga Poses.” In the liberal Seattle community where she begins that project, it’s also the thing to do: Doctor, neighbors, even a homeless guy tell her to get on the mat, in part to heal a bad back after having a baby.

But goodness as it turns out is elusive and not terribly interesting for the same reason most books about yoga are unreadable: No one wants to hear about how good you are. We want to hear about how you tried to be good and fell short. And by doing just that, “Poser” achieves something rare: It’s a contemporary book about yoga that doesn’t leave you squirming, suspect or bored.

A significant part of “Poser’s” readability comes from Dederer’s willingness to own up to trivial but self-exposing details — how her belly went soft after two cesareans, how she struggled not to resent her husband’s expansive writing career, how one night she denied her two children a peek at the falling snow because “I didn’t want to deal with their joy.” She frames each testimonial with a yoga pose: She convinced herself she was too weak to do chaturanga, the slow descent from push-up to the floor, just as she had believed her marriage “was too fragile to hold up to the rigors of the truth.” Hanumanasana, or splits, represents Dederer and her family’s return from a two-year sojourn in Boulder, Colo., and the “feeling of energy, and connection, and difficulty and joy as I leaped over mountains toward my old life.”

The yoga analogies aren’t all airtight: There’s something reckless about Dederer having shoehorned a reverie about foehn winds — those hot breezes that rip down mountain slopes — into a chapter named for seated forward bend, which is perhaps the least windy of all yoga’s asanas. But the fact is, foehns are fun to read about, and so is Dederer’s over-examined life: “Poser” is the output of a curious, vivid mind, one that opens every box and asks questions about its contents. Sometimes the answers are confounding. Often they’re maddeningly simple.

I flatter myself that I enjoyed Dederer’s book so thoroughly because we have so much in common — I too had a feminist-influenced mother who defected from married life in the 1970s; I share her suspicion of American yogis who suddenly embrace all things Eastern. I’ve also followed her same rough yoga path — from discovery (when the poses deliver “a dossier of information you’re not sure you really want”) to goal-seeking (I will get this leg behind my head if it kills me!) to the humble acceptance that yoga makes fools of goal-seekers (“The longer I do yoga, the worse I get at it,” Dederer admits. Oh, yes.).

But factually speaking, many other women will locate themselves in Dederer’s words much more precisely than I do, and people who never do yoga will too. The illusion of commiseration here is really just a triumph of truth-telling, of a writer having the courage to confront her limits and sit, uncritically, in the messy present. Like a yoga pose, it doesn’t have to be perfect to be exquisite.

When I initially heard about Dededer’s book, I thought, ugh! This is just the latest edition of gimmicky chick-lit riding the Eat, Pray, Love wave. The arrival of this book officially signals that yoga has  become the vehicle for delivering the latest hackneyed story of self-discovery and near mid-life crises.  While Dederer very well may be riding the EPL wave, I somehow think Dederer seems to have more to offer than Gilbert did…But I’ll save the rest of my thinking and sharing until after I read it.

I’ll let you know what I think.  Anyone out there read it yet?

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For Yoga Tattuesday: U.S. Election Day Edition, I present to you neither a politician nor an American.  Instead, a Canadian yogi-slash-politica-researcher and inked-up mother of two named Stephanie Renaud.  Here’s Stephanie’s tattoo:

Photo Courtesy of Stephanie Renaud

As you can see, Stephanie’s tattoo is the “Om” symbol and it is located on her back over her heart chakra. While I have seen “Om” tattoos on many a yogi, I have never seen one quite like Stephanie’s.  Hers is drawn in green vines and accented with different flowers…how neat! She chose the symbol done in vines “because yoga is part of [her] roots.”   She explains, “It is what keeps me stable and strong in an unstable and crazy world.  The flowers are symbolic of things that have grown out of those roots, like my husband and children. I am planning to have a string of pearls woven through the vine to symbolize my grandmother who passed and the grand footprint that she left on my life.”

Stephanie is from Windsor, Ontario Canada, and came to yoga as many of us did – for its physical benefits – and found much more. Not only is she raising her two small children, but she works from home as a political researcher and teaches yoga to young children. Stephanie says, “I find so much strength and balance on my mat that I can carry into the world with me. As a working mom I often tell people I practice yoga because it makes me strong in my body, my mind and my heart.  Who couldn’t use a practice that does that?!”

In discussing this post for Yoga Tattuesday, I found Stephanie to be just as lovely as her tattoo. In addition to working, yoga-ing, teaching, and being a mom, Stephanie has a blog that she updates when she can called D”om”estic Bliss that you can read at: ompage-yogajunkie.blogspot.com. Thanks to Stephanie for sharing her story and her tattoo with us!

If you, or someone you love, has a yoga-inspired tattoo that they would like to share on this here little yoga blog, let me know.

How to participate:

1) Please email me photo of your tattoo: My email address is: yogabird03@gmail.com.

2) Along with the photo, please also include your name, where you’re from, what you do, etc. Be sure to include your blog, your website, etc., so that I can link to it in the post.

3) Please also include any information about how you started practicing yoga.

4) And most importantly, tell me why you chose your yoga-inspired tattoo!

I look forward to hearing from you and to seeing your ink!”

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