Synopses & Reviews
When Indra Devi was born in Russia in 1899, yoga was virtually unknown outside of India. By the time of her death, in 2002, it was being practiced around the world. Here, New York Times best-selling author Michelle Goldberg tells the globetrotting story of the incredible woman who helped usher in a craze that continues unabated to this day. A sweeping picture of the twentieth century that travels from the cabarets of Berlin to the Mysore Palace to Golden Age Hollywood and beyond, The Goddess Pose brings the Devi’s little known but extraordinary adventures vividly to life.
"The story of how Devi came to embrace yoga and spread its gospel in America is as fascinating as it is unlikely....[Goldberg’s] goal in writing The Goddess Pose seems to have been not just chronicling the life of one of the world’s great iconoclasts, but also providing a history for how hatha yoga went from an Indian spiritual tradition to an everyday part of western lives. She succeeds admirably on both counts." The Guardian
"A celebration of female freedom and everything it can bring: an appetite for adventure, fearlessness in the face of challenge, and, most important, discovery and assertion of self." Anna Holmes, founding editor, Jezebel
"Engaging...offers fresh insights into commonly held assumptions, including the relatively new origins of many physical asanas....Goldberg’s own discovery of yoga and Indra Devi forms a riveting prologue to an expansive book that underlines how truly global yoga has become after it was taken from Indian shores more than a century ago." The Times of India
"Goldberg’s book is lots of fun....Even if you don’t care enough about yoga to hold a pigeon pose for the length of time it takes to say [the] title, Indra Devi...remains no less a fascinating character." Los Angeles Times
"It’s hard to believe that the life of Indra Devi...hasn’t been made into a blockbuster film....Without idolizing or condemning her, Goldberg evokes Devi’s complicated nature as deftly as she does the Russian Empire, Weimar Berlin, occupied Shanghai, and so many of the other places where Devi worked, loved, and proselytized." New York Magazine
"Fascinating....[Devi’s] story and influence live on in this can’t-miss memoir." Yoga Journal
"Groundbreaking....[Goldberg’s] clear prose illuminates the forces of war and social change and reveals the complex roots of our country’s yoga boom." San Francisco Chronicle
"Elegant and richly drawn....With a jeweler’s eye for detail, Goldberg presents a singular woman." The New York Times Book Review
Born into the minor aristocracy (as Eugenia Peterson), Devi grew up in the midst of one of the most turbulent times in human history. Forced to flee the Russian Revolution as a teenager, she joined a famous Berlin cabaret troupe, dove into the vibrant prewar spiritualist movement, and, at a time when it was nearly unthinkable for a young European woman to travel alone, followed the charismatic Theosophical leader Jiddu Krishnamurti to India.
Once on the subcontinent, she performed in Indian silent cinema and hobnobbed with the leaders of the independence movement. But her greatest coup was convincing a recalcitrant master yogi to train her in the secrets of his art.
Devi would go on to share what she learned with people around the world, teaching in Shanghai during World War II, then in Hollywood, where her students included Gloria Swanson and Greta Garbo. She ran a yoga school in Mexico during the height of the counterculture, served as spiritual adviser to the colonel who tried to overthrow Panamanian strongman Manuel Noriega, and, in her eighties, moved to Buenos Aires at the invitation of a besotted rock star.
Everywhere she went, Indra Devi evangelized for yoga, ushering in a global craze that continues unabated. Written with vivid clarity, The Goddess Pose brings her remarkable story—as an actress, yogi, and globetrotting adventuress—to life.
About the Author
Michelle Goldberg is a journalist and the author of the New York Times best seller Kingdom Coming: The Rise of Christian Nationalism, which was a finalist for the New York Public Library’s Helen Bernstein Book Award for Excellence in Journalism, and The Means of Reproduction: Sex, Power, and the Future of the World, winner of the J. Anthony Lukas Work-in-Progress Award and the Ernesta Drinker Ballard Book Prize. A senior contributing writer at The Nation, she has also written pieces for The New Yorker, The New York Times, Newsweek, The New Republic, Glamour, and many other publications. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and children.