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First There is a Mountain: A Yoga Romance Hardcover – January 2, 2004

4.2 out of 5 stars 25 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

While ostensibly a memoir about Kadetsky's growing self-acceptance, which slowly evolves through her yoga practice, this book is actually more a chronicle of the mythic history of yoga and the contradictions of its most worshipped living teacher, the 80-year-old B. K. S. Iyengar. Kadetsky received a Fulbright grant to study creative writing, and her prose can be mesmerizing when she describes the fetid conditions she endures traveling to India to study with Iyengar and his family, or her frustrations trying to perfectly execute yoga asanas, or poses. It's another story, however, when she wades through 14 generations of yogic history: it's challenging to keep Kuvalayananda straight from Krishnamacharya, especially since Indians themselves argue over which stories are legends and which are facts. Iyengar himself is portrayed as a tyrant who berates other teachers for defiling yoga's purity, even though he has done more to break its traditions and promote its Westernization than his rival instructors. Yoga aficionados will likely be fascinated by Kadetsky's spiritual renewal-which helped her overcome both an eating disorder and depression-and how that renewal was achieved through months of brutal practice in India. But other readers may be more surprised by her exposé of what she depicts as the cruelty and hypocrisy pervading the Iyengar empire.
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"...Kadetsky brings a good dose of journalistic skepticism to her own memoir, as well as writerly grace and beauty..." -- Leah Hager Cohen

"...Kadetsky brings her fierce intelligence and savvy style to bear on the most intimate and unmapped of literary territory..." -- Melanie Thernstorm

"...a wonderful book...colorful, honest, smart and wise..." -- Martha Sherrill, author

"...an enthralling account of several journeys..." -- Margot Livesey

"...an intriguing journey into the sometimes magical, sometimes mystifying world of yoga. I loved this book..." -- Maggie Estep

"...seamlessly combines the emotions of a meaningful personal journey with a journalist's rigor and scope---inspiring and educational..." -- Aimee Bender, author

"Like a neon lotus, this book dazzles with its hard-won revelations." -- Rachel Resnick, author

"Like a raga, delicate and beautiful, with an undercurrent that will pull you ferverishly, into a startling world." -- Katherine Russell Rich

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company; 1 edition (January 2, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316890960
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316890960
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.9 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #633,587 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
As a practitioner of yoga for about a decade or so, I've learned to separate the life-changing art of practicing yoga from writing ABOUT yoga, the latter of which tends to oscillate between the flaky and the just-plain-stupid. So I have to admit, I was a little skeptical when a yoga-practitioner friend of mine recommended Kadetsky's book. To begin with, I was instantly drawn in by her magnetic prose and lush descriptions of India, but as I read on, I also began to admire the subtle way she navigates between the foibles and sublimities of B.K.S. Iyengar, a man who is perhaps one of the twentieth century's most enigmatic teachers. Her thoughts on the connection between modern yoga and Hindu fundamentalism are well worth the price of admission. For anyone who has ever found their own quest for spirituality caught between the allure of an ancient past and the grittiness of the modern third world, this is a great book. My only complaint is that I didn't see what the subtitle, "A Yoga Romance," had to do with her book, since needless to say, there is no love-interest in this book.
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Format: Hardcover
Yoga is known in America and Europe primarily as a method for relaxation technique available to all, but in India this practice is not separated from a relationship of teacher and student. Miss Kadetsky's book is an excellent description of such relationship in the Indian environment. Also, I think everyone who reads this book will learn much about Yoga and its role in India's National History. I hope the author continues to write books about exchange between East and West.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I had an interest in reading this book for several years and kept searching for it in book stores; finally, I purchased it through Amazon. Perhaps my anticipation and expectations were a factor, because once I actually read the book (which took me quite awhile to get through despite being less than 300 pages long), I found it to be somewhat of a disappointment.

FIRST THERE IS A MOUNTAIN is a classified in the genre of "memoir/spirituality." I'm a yoga practitioner myself who has read several other yoga memoirs, and thus I expected to enjoy author Elizabeth Kadestsky's tale of her own yoga journey, especially given that it involved actually traveling to Pune, India, to study with her guru, B.K.S. Iyengar. And Kadestsky certainly does readily share details from her life: being caught between her parents' divorce, practicing meditation to escape her stepfather, and struggling with depression in college. Although the book opens with Kadetsky already in India, these stories are frequently--and fairly haphazardly, I might add--woven in as flashbacks.

Whenever Kadestsky does return to present-day India, however, both her tone and focus. Suddenly, these segments read like a biography--not of Kadestsky herself, but of B.K.S. Iyengar. She describes in great detail the origins of his work with his brother-in-law, T. Krishnamacharya, and the events leading up to the founding of the Iyengar Institute in Pune. I actually found that I preferred these more factual interludes to Kadestsky's speculative ramblings--about herself, her dreams, Iyengar, his daughter Geeta, the Institute, and more.

In the end, this book felt like it was at war with itself, struggling in vain for an identity.
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Format: Hardcover
I will most likely never travel to India. But, as a student of yoga, I was able to catch a glimpse of what a western yoga practitioner might expect and ultimately experience in India. Having read and studied about Iyengar, Krishnamacharya and Pattabhi Jois as yoga icons, it was fascinating to read of them as humans and sometimes tyrrants/rivals. Kadetsky's personal story lingered in the background...oozed out as honey from between the printed lines. I enjoyed the imagery and the human quality that Kadetsky imparted the reader.

Surprisingly, after the read, I felt new inspiration for my personal yoga practice. I am so grateful for the masters that have given us a sense of history, but am overjoyed that the practice ultimately becomes our own. Kadetsky illustrated that wonderfully.
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By A Customer on January 7, 2004
Format: Hardcover
As a relatively new reporter chasing a Pulitzer, Elizabeth Kadetsky did little to take care of her body properly though she ran a lot and practiced yoga. The problem was she was always on the run grabbing quick bites to eat that is when she even ate. Elizabeth physically felt poor but mentally worse as her life was journalism so anything outside that realm was a negative. Needing a change, Elizabeth, a yoga advocate, applied to attend a yoga school in India run by the renowned elderly Iyengar, who was one of the few experts to instruct Westerners.
Finally accepted as a student, Elizabeth learns that her yoga style is a westernized fake that is nothing like that taught by the Master. As a pupil, she begins to explore the boundaries between the physical, the mental and the transcendent spiritual bridge between the two parts that when in harmony make a whole. The reporter inside Elizabeth also explores her teacher's background and the sacred place of yoga in India as under Iyengar's tutelage she journeys beyond her past seeking her whole.
FIRST THERE IS A MOUNTAIN in a tremendous account of west meets east on eastern terms. Readers will feel the love that Elizabeth Kadetsky has for her mentor, her trek from yoga the exercise mechanism to revering religious like the yoga transcend journey of the mind and body, and finally an insightful look at the past and present of yoga diagonally crossing the caste system. The audience will understand why Ms. Kadetsky subtitles her journal "A Yoga Romance".
Harriet Klausner
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