Laughter, Grace, and Yoga, Oh My!
Anxiety.... it’s safe to say that every American suffers from it, at least from time to time. Attention Deficit Disorder is an affliction suffered by fewer, but one that is more frequently diagnosed in our modern culture newly fascinated with instantaneous information and governed by shorter attentions spans.
More often than not, ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) is managed with drugs, joining the ranks of diseases and disorders for which an extremely expensive little pill is the promised cure. Occasionally, though, people try to manage their afflictions in a more holistic way, through diet, exercise, and other alternatives that are attempts to forego the medicated path. These attempts are met with mixed results, depending on the individual, the condition being managed, and the methods used.
Eastern philosophies and practices have gained an increasing foothold in the western world, and meditation, bikram, and lotus position, are no longer merely exotic terms found only inside the boundaries of a bohemian commune in the rolling hills of Northern California. Yoga has hit the mainstream and every YMCA features a myriad of classes, and specialty yoga centers are on every street corner.
In his belly-achingly funny book, “Adventures of a Garden State Yogi”, author Brian Leaf immerses the reader in the world of yoga as though narrating an episode of Portlandia. Barely two paragraphs into this charming memoir-style self-help book, one’s stomach muscles are aching from laughter as though one has spent the last half hour in plank pose.
Yoga literacy is not necessary to enjoy Leaf’s account of his journey through the discovery of the discipline in 1989, which was, according to the author, “... before many guys did yoga. Men can now hug and cry and do yoga and drink white wine and wear an apron and cook free-range chicken picatta. But in 1989, we were pretty much hemmed in between Al Bundy and Magnum P.I.--limited to watching televised sports, eating large pieces of meat, and drinking cheap beer stored in a small fridge next to the couch.”
Landing upon a yoga class as an elective at Georgetown University (by-passing the less “exotic” choices of jazz dance, squash, and step aerobics), Leaf quickly discovers that he is exactly where he is meant to be. “Oskar’s yoga class touched the right chord and made my soul sing. I had signed up for yoga on a lark, but even in that first class, I knew what I had found.”
What he had found, in addition to an elixir for his blossoming ADD, was a natural remedy for his colitis, which had flared up regularly since high school. Detailed in a humorous and (very) self-deprecating style, the author highlights the travails of his stress-induced gastrointestinal nightmares in a Seinfeld-esque journey to cure his chronic ailments and to, ultimately, find inner peace.
Part road trip memoir, part spiritual guidance manual, “Adventures of a Garden State Yogi” has one “ommmming” right along with Leaf, a humorous guru who does not take himself or the practice of yoga too seriously. He performs “serious” yoga, but he clearly left his ego back in the 80’s with the “very tight spandex, neon sweatbands, leg warmers, and feather hair.”