The Goddess Pose: The Audacious Life of Indra Devi, the Woman Who Helped Bring Yoga to the West by Michelle Goldberg is an honest look at the life of an extraordinary woman. If I had read a novel in which a woman experienced half of the things Indra Devi did, I would have found it hard to believe. And yet, this is no mere fiction and Goldberg writes about Devi, not with devotion but with honesty.
Born Eugenia Peterson into an aristocratic family, she eventually followed her beloved mother out of their Russian home because of the revolution. The two travel through many countries, including Germany (and were there during the Beer Hall Putsch, no less). She continued to be in pivotal places during significant times and was determined throughout her life to remain independent even when she was married.
Eugenia was an actress and wife but never settled on anything in particular until she came to yoga and renamed herself Indra Devi. Even then, she drifted from one teacher to the next, taking what she learned from Indian masters—such as Vivikenanda, Krishnamacharya, and Sai Baba—and fusing it with her western understanding of health. She adapted hatha yoga and introduced the practice to women even when yoga was still mostly taught by men to other men.
The fact is, without Indra Devi, yoga’s presence in America might not have taken root so soon and her life is both a testament to the power of yoga and the human ego for the yogini presented in this book is deeply flawed, often driven by selfish needs that only seemed selfless. But even someone who hasn’t quite released the ego can be a spiritual leader and there is no doubt that Devi is more influential than many people who do yoga daily are aware. That she is flawed, makes her influence all the more fascinating. Her life would make a great movie and even Hollywood would not have to do much to make it dramatically compelling. Goldberg has done a brilliant job of celebrating a very human woman and bringing her to life on the page.