Tales from the Yoga Studio, by Rain Mitchell
While there is nothing original about a yoga scene or two being depicted in a novel, there has not been a novel with yoga at its core. Or at least not until now, as far as Rain Mitchell is aware. It comes as no surprise to learn that Mitchell has been practicing yoga for years, and she has set this book with Edendale Yoga at its heart. Edendale is an independent yoga studio in Silver Lake, California, and is owned and run by Lee. She, along with a small handful of her students, is central to the book’s revolving storylines, and the lives, loves, losses, and gains of these women are explored throughout.
It is the yogi in me that was attracted to this book, and the yogi in me enjoyed it. But is it necessary to practice yoga in order to appreciate the book? Probably not, though I think it definitely helps (although the classes described in it are not much like any of the classes I have attended). Although centred around yoga, really this book is about relationships and evolving life journeys, whether difficult, rewarding, scary, exciting, or venturing into the unknown.
Tales from the Yoga Studio is primarily about women, and is undoubtedly aimed at female readers. The male characters are secondary to the leads, who are all various presentations of Californian clichés; an actress (Imani), a screen-writer (Stephanie), a working mother with an unstable marriage (Lee), a recovering addict (Katherine), and a dancer vying for a role in Beyoncé’s upcoming video (Graciela). As well as the characters themselves, stereotypes of Los Angeles are depicted, with much referencing to the film and music industries, the importance of appearances (both with regard to fashion and location), and following the latest trends. This bordered on a little tiresome at times, but thankfully was well balanced with the setting of more laid back, old-fashioned, bohemian, Silver Lake as Edendale Yoga’s home.
It was not difficult to become immersed in the book right from the beginning. Written in the rather contemporary style of swapping chapters for regular line breaks between paragraphs, its momentum never falters. The reader is constantly switching between the lives of the five main characters, without much time to dwell on any one person or situation. Personally I enjoyed reading about Katherine the most, as she seemed more realistic, imperfect, and likeable than the others, and she is also the one I could most imagine being friends with. This, I think, would greatly please Rain Mitchell, as a real sense of community is created in Tales from the Yoga Studio. If a reader is able to relate to this community and feel part of it, then I think this book has done its job. It has been written as the first in a series, and although this is something that I would usually shy away from (books written for the sake of satisfying a production-line deal do not generally appeal to me), I have to admit that I am curious to know what will happen next.
Also, reading Tales from the Yoga Studio has certainly made me wish that I could try out one of Lee’s apparently amazing classes. (I would also really love to have my own vintage yellow sundress and pink Dutch bicycle.)