Grace is tired of her life. Her boyfriend, Harry, hasn’t had a job in years, and she’s sick of supporting him when he refuses to help himself. Her job as a pharmaceutical sales rep is unrewarding and does not provide her any inspiration. The only thing in her life she enjoys is yoga: Swami D’s yoga center provides Grace the chance to unwind and reflect on her miserable life.
One night, a doctor Grace is marketing to confesses his dissatisfaction with his own life. He tells her he is considering going to Vietnam for a few months and training in Eastern medicine. Grace’s shock at this announcement, combined with her realization that she is not the only one feeling this sense of disappointment in life, makes a drastic decision: she signs up for a retreat at a yoga center in California, determined to pursue the only thing that makes her happy. She is going to become a yoga teacher.
Alexandra Gray’s The Yoga Teacher is about leaving your comfort zone - leaving everything comfortable and warm and forging forward into the unknown. Grace finds many rewards but also many hardships along the way. In the end, it is about pursuing those things in life that keep you fulfilled and ending those that disappoint you.
Gray has a real talent for writing characters. From Grace to her yoga students, each person in the book is crafted with loving care. Though the reader only gets glimpses into the lives of some of the characters, they nonetheless are full-blooded, three-dimensional characters that the reader is simply dropping in on for a visit. I could completely see them living their separate lives as Grace goes on with hers.
The one thing about The Yoga Teacher that may give readers some pause is its pace. Though the book is short, the first quarter of the book moves very slowly. It makes sense because it parallels the movement in Grace’s life: at the beginning, Grace’s life is slow and boring - there is nothing in it to excite her. Then, as she begins to make decisions to change her life, the pace of the narrative picks up, as does her story. Though it is an effective method (the reader really feels the despondency in Grace’s life), it may turn some readers off.
The novel also provides some interesting information about yoga, which readers unfamiliar with the practice may find valuable. It will undoubtedly inspire some to think about joining local yoga classes.
While The Yoga Teacher could be read as a mid-life crisis book due to Grace’s age (she is 40), it is more broadly book about an unhappy woman who decides that, against all odds, she will somehow find a way to be happy. It is thoroughly enjoyable, with a quirky cast of characters that any reader will love. I recommend it to any women who find the premise interesting, as well as anyone who wants to learn more about yoga.