October 9, 2012

Misadventures of a Garden State Yogi. ~ Miri McDonald

Brian Leaf’s memoir of his yogic journey

{Note: the author received this book for free in return to review the said offering. That said, she says what she wants—good and bad, happy and sad.}

When I saw Misadventures of a Garden State Yogi, Brian Leaf’s memoir about his yogic journey, I had to read it. After all, I’m a Jersey girl myself. Little did I know, the author and I had more in common than New Jersey.

Brian is also Jewish and went to school in the DC area. I enjoyed the references to places I know, and familiar words and phrases. And, although geographic and religious backgrounds are enough to bring people together, there’s nothing like yoga as a common bond.

However, Brian’s journey with yoga took him places that I’ve often dreamed about, but haven’t had the guts to make happen. I don’t have a regular meditation practice, haven’t adapted a vegan lifestyle or spent any time at ashrams.

Brian says himself, “I became a yoga zealot pretty quickly.” Brian’s relationship with yoga is not just his physical practice on the mat. I was quite impressed with his search for the physical practice he felt most connected to, experimenting with Iyengar, Svaroopa and Sivananda to name a few, ultimately choosing Kripalu yoga.

Living yoga off the mat

The thing about Brian that shows his dedication to the yogic path, is he practices yoga off the mat as part of his daily life. He used yoga as a way to look at himself and really see who he is. He used yoga to uncover, and find the root of his suffering when it came to his colitis, ADD, anger, insecurities and more. But, he also used yoga to find love, and that is the basis for how he interacts with his children and handles the busy life of a working parent.

Brian shares his journey by telling stories that defined the steps on his path. Many of these stories are funny, some are heart-warming and some provide a window into how he used yoga to unravel the life he was living, to create the life he wanted to live.

Cathartic moments

I admire Brian’s unwavering commitment to finding his truth. At times, I did find myself skeptical, but perhaps that’s my own insecurity or fear of what is possible. For example, he shares experiencing a form of catharsis during a yoga practice, and afterward, he not only screamed on the top of his lungs, but then:

“I can’t remember falling to the ground, but the next thing I knew I was flat on my back writhing and weeping, with no concern or holding back. It was pure energy release; I was not crying about anything in particular, just weeping.”

Another experience I could not relate to, and if I’m honest—I think I may have been rolling my eyes—is one where he experienced Shaktipat. Leaf said that according to yogic tradition, a guru can initiate Shaktipat by touching or being in someone’s presence. Brian worked with a guru named Genevieve, and in his first meeting with her he started to cry—energy traveled up his spine, reached his heart and he felt both joy and bliss.

What you can learn if you let yourself

Let me make something clear here. I do not think Brian is somehow simulating these experiences. His stories feel genuine, and I’m sure he wouldn’t share them if they weren’t authentic. It’s just that I can’t ever imagine having those experiences. This is what yoga teaches us: to look at what makes us skeptical, what brings out our vulnerabilities, fears and insecurities.

Misadventures of a Garden State Yogi is a great book for anyone on their yogic path. Leaf shares his keys to happiness, lessons you can learn from and put into practice, stories that will make you laugh. But most importantly, when you are reading it, observe your reactions to it. Brian holds up a mirror, and if you dare to look at the reflection, you may find some truth of your own.


Miri McDonald works in strategic communications and a yogini on and off the mat. She earned her 200 hour teaching certification in 2005 from Tranquil Space Yoga in Washington, DC. Miri lives in Madison, WI where she is doing her best to live in the moment, learning from her favorite gurus, her two young boys and a crazy black labrador. She tweets at @mirimcdonald.




~Editor: Nikki Di Virgilio

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