First thing I did was to check this is the same Michelle Goldberg whose opinion pieces I regularly read in the New York Times. (It is.) It’s a biography about Indra Devi, a woman originally from Latvia, through whose life Goldberg traces the story of yoga as it comes over to settle in the west.
I grew up in the 60’s and 70’s with some of this a backdrop to my child and early adulthood. My husband, seven years older than me, joined an ashram in India and then started one himself in Neuchâtel, Switzerland. He had a guru who he followed faithfully for a number of years.
Me… even though I was the kind of teenager who read Lobsang Rampa (remember The Third Eye!) and Herman Hesse (remember Siddhartha!) I could never wrap my head round the whole guru thing that lots of people at that time had, romanticizing and fetishizing certain people – nearly all men – for representing some higher spiritual truth. I spent the first half of my life concerned that this made me a lesser human being. Over the years it morphed into relief. And now it serves as a reminder of how perfectly intelligent humans can be so gullible as they travel long distances, donate money, and prostrate themselves in front of young men who have grown to think they are special enough to avoid being caught for embezzlement or sexual exploitation.
Nonetheless I’ve held true to a feeling of connection between my deep inside, my physicality, the wider world, and the infinite – and other levels in between. Yoga is one of the places where I can be intentional in that experience. It works alongside my athletic side too.
And I love the way Michelle Goldberg put it: You don’t have to believe in anything, even yoga itself, to find joy and solace in the conscious joining of breath and movement, or relief in slowing the whirling of the mind. You just have to do it.