Booklicious: Booklicious Reviews: Stretch: The Unlikely Making of a Yoga Dude

November 11, 2010



Stretch: The Unlikely Making of a Yoga Dude by Neal Pollack (Harper Perennial) details the hilarious journey of an out-of-shape, slightly overweight, middle-aged Jewish man (Pollack himself) on a quest to find a form of exercise that will jerk him out of a downward spiral of an unhealthy body and mind. Persuaded by his wife’s conclusion that yoga will make him both stretchy and sexy and (more importantly) swayed by the fact that yoga class is offered for free at his local gym, the author jumps head first into the increasingly popular world of downward dog.

Throughout the account of his travails into the culture of yoga, Pollack demonstrates a hilarious sense of humor and biting wit regarding both himself and the subculture he finds himself immersed in. Pollack brings his readers up to date as to why he is in such horrible physical and mental shape, a condition resulting from being panned by The New York Times, the fact that his latest book was not the bright shining hit he had planned, and that he had not been lauded by the literary community to the same extent as Jonathan Safran Foer (Pollack’s commentary on this unfortunate series of events is followed by many comments concerning both of these men’s Judaism – absolutely hilarious). As Pollack begins to realize that literary success is not yet destined to be his, he starts acting like a baked-out two year old while on book tours, tearing up books such as Everything Is Illuminated (by the aforementioned Safran Foer) and eventually ends up burning To Kill a Mockingbird while on a pit stop in Chicago. (This particular incident occurred because the mayor of Chicago acknowledged Harper Lee’s work to be a masterpiece that should be read by all Chicagoans, and not any of Pollack’s works. Talk about a man living with some serious self-pity.)

After setting the stage and explaining why yoga would be excellent for him, Pollack delves into hysterical stories about him trying to find the right teacher, the right class, and the right practice. He is beyond self-deprecating throughout his account of entering into a world of physically fit and tone yogis, of which he is the exact opposite. There was more than one chapter in which I absolutely could not keep my fits of laughter silent. His descriptions of attempts of poses, movements, and the general attempt of fitting into the culture of yoga are beyond hilarious. What is not so hilarious, but certainly endearing, is his retelling of a man genuinely trying to find ‘his best self’ and realizing that it is a constant struggle to find and keep this.

As he recounts the beginning of his yoga-devoted life, Pollack also reminds us that he is a Dodgers fan, a husband and a father, a pothead, and a tightwad to the extreme. Anything costing money is cause for pause, and the lengths Pollack goes to get into events for free or on the cheap are certainly worth a giggle. His trips to conferences (both in the States and overseas) in the name of yoga cost a pretty penny, and he shows no shame in attempting to cut that cost.

The one downside to the book is that Pollack seems to lose steam in the middle, straying from his personal stories to explain the technical side of yoga. But he does eventually return to lighter, funnier fare, and had me giggling and chortling all the way to the end of his exploits, which include a trip to Thailand, a doctor’s office, and his own yoga studio. 


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