A couple of years ago, I got this text from my sister: “Yoga question: In the book I’m reading, part of what they do is drink their pee. Have you heard of that?”
I had, in fact, heard of “urine therapy” in books on yoga, but it certainly wasn’t a topic covered in my yoga teacher training, and I thought it was a long-dormant practice. Call me odd, but I was intrigued. I asked her what she was reading.
Suzanne Morrison’s Yoga Bitch: One Woman’s Quest to Conquer Skepticism, Cynicism, and Cigarettes on the Path to Enlightenment, which was published in 2011, is part-memoir, part-travelogue, and part-exposé of both the commercialization of yoga in the west and the adoption by westerners of ancient yogic practices, such as pee drinking, or amaroli.
At the book’s start, 25-year-old Morrison is a sarcastic, cigarette-smoking atheist, but when she starts taking classes with Indra, an enigmatic yoga teacher, she sees a path towards a different life. Her search for God, and her idolization of Indra, take her to Bali, where she enrolls in a teacher-training program run by Indra and her husband Lou.
Like many of us, Morrison asks a lot of her yoga practice, expecting nothing short of enlightenment from her two-month-long course. When she doesn’t get the immediate spiritual transformation she’s looking for and Indra reveals herself as human rather than goddess, Morrison starts to believe the whole yogaverse is a sham consisting of the obscenely priced apparel advertised in Yoga Journal, the romanticizing of foreign cultures, and “celebriyogis and sacred schwag.”
Decrying the westernization of yoga and its consumers isn’t new, but this book, six years after it was published, still feels fresh. One of Morrison’s strengths is that she doesn’t let her disillusionment get the best of her. At its heart, this is a book about how to navigate the world of yoga and distinguish the practice from its accessories.
Morrison isn’t proselytizing. Her often-cynical analysis of the western brand of yoga doesn’t get preachy because she shines light on her own shortcomings, allowing the reader to see her at her most insufferable. Yogic “achievements” such as mastering headstand or experiencing a Kundalini rising can inflate the ego. Watching Morrison struggle against her inner yoga bitch reminds us to be aware of our own egos. There’s a little bit of yoga bitch in all of us.
This book is best for yogis who have a sense of humor about their practice. As the title suggests, this is not your typical yoga tome, and if you don’t like your philosophy with a side of profanity, this may not be the read for you. But whether you are newly in-love with yoga, a long-time practitioner, or are trying to find your way back to your mat, you’ll appreciate both Morrison’s devotion to her spiritual quest and her unflinching skepticism.