Yes, the yoga memoir is officially a mini-genre, one that Brian Leaf's book, "Misadventures of a Garden State Yogi" fits neatly into. And most likely, you'll enjoy the author's journey most if you actually do yoga, even on a casual level. But you might also be interested if you are looking for a way out of your chronically overthinking head, your broken heart, or your frustratingly faulty body. Because Leaf isn't your typical super-excited new yogi — he begins his voyage in 1989, taking a yoga class at Georgetown University on a whim, because it seemed "exotic."  


As he details it in an interview, "I signed up for yoga in 1989 on a lark because my brother, Larry, had taken kung fu and skeet shooting electives during college. I wanted something equally exotic. I’m not sure what I expected, probably something from a Bruce Lee or James Bond film. A few minutes into the first class, though, I knew that I had found my path." Yoga soon changes his life, first in a subtle way, then bigger and more significant ways.


Subtitled, "My Humble Quest to Heal My Colitis, Calm My ADD, and Find the Key to Happiness," Leaf's memoir details how he dealt with a pretty typical-sounding case of ulcerative colitis using yoga (and later some nutritional know-how) and later, ADD. To heal both a physical and a mental ailment is a triumph for anyone, and Leaf manages his way around two of them, while still maintaining an engaging, downright humorous tone — a vibe that means reading his story is miles from Deepak Chopra and closer to Bill Bryson.  


As Carol Horton writes on Elephant Journal, "It’s not easy to be funny and have depth at the same time." But Leaf manages just that balancing act, and that's why even those folks who have never stepped on a yoga mat can definitely enjoy this memoir. I'll say unabashedly that this is a great holiday gift for anyone struggling with the challenges (physical, mental or both) of modern life. Every time I closed the book, I found myself rooting for Leaf, and you get the feeling that in his gentle prescriptions, he's rooting for the reader, too. 


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Starre Vartan ( @ecochickie ) covers conscious consumption, health and science as she travels the world exploring new cultures and ideas.