An American woman coping with physical and emotional distress delves deeper into her Indian heritage and yoga practice in an effort to find true balance.
At this point, the tale of a single Westerner hoping to find herself by journeying to faraway India probably qualifies as a literary cliché. But Mitra’s lyrical mix of devotion and critical analysis is truly revelatory. As she tells the story of her commitment to earnestly pursuing the eight limbs of Patanjali’s Ashtanga yoga in her ancestral homeland, she never runs away from the doubt that tugs at her analytical mind. Her book also tells a sympathetic story of a young, intelligent woman actively battling her own stinging depression and chronic pain. Although she fully opens herself to the spiritual, she also fearlessly questions some of the most basic traditions of Eastern thought. Detachment, for example, is a tall order for a young woman yearning for a family, and gurus can sometimes get in the way of true insight. Mitra also doesn’t tolerate the sexism and misogyny that exist in the gutters on the road to enlightenment—realities that make traveling alone in India sound like a nightmare for women. The author tells of how she was instructed how to dress before venturing out into public in India: “It’s funny until you have to dress in that custom every day without respite to protect yourself from men’s inability to control themselves and society’s lack of expectation for them to do so, if tempted.” That tension that Mitra experiences while pursuing spiritual practice creates a compelling narrative. The book also provides real insight into the essence of yogic teachings. Overall, the fact that Mitra is able to overcome her obstacles is truly uplifting and makes for an inspirational journey.
A compelling travelogue that earnestly maps a traveler’s heart and soul.