We’ve got another great yoga read to add to our summer book list: Downward Dog by Edward Vilga. The latest work from Vilga, author of Yoga in Bed, tells the story of a male yoga teacher looking to redeem his bad boy ways who finds himself becoming a teacher to New York’s elite crowd. We had the opportunity to ask Vilga, a fixture in the New York yoga scene, about his practice and his inspiration for Downward Dog. Read our interview below and download a copy of Downward Dog here.
I sometimes feel like yoga discovered me!
I was around 12 or 13 and really searching for answers. I was a voracious reader and after plowing my way through my local public library's psychology and spirituality sections, I stumbled on a yoga paperback The Complete Illustrated Book of Yoga by Swami Vishnu Devananda. I began doing all the poses and practices I could and it somehow became something that was simply part of my life. It wasn't until much later in life that I began attending group yoga classes, but the heart of practice was already part of my teenage experience.
It varies a great deal. Often it's just unstructured, free-form stretching. Sometimes it's long held poses (like headstand for 7 minutes). I've gone through Bikram phases (and Bikram disapproval as well.) I often find myself casually sitting in ankle-to-knee. Frankly, these days I have almost no rules about what my yoga practice should be or what it's supposed to look like.
It is a work of fiction, but on the other hand it is definitely a book about a guy yoga teacher in NYC who teaches a lot of privates and popular group classes, written by a guy yoga teacher who taught a lot of privates and popular group classes in NYC. Plus both my hero and I went to Yale and enjoy going out at night. So … let's say I had a lot to draw from in my own experience. (And a lot of it I just made up.)
There aren't really that many scenes of the main character practicing per se, but each section of the book is framed by his thoughts on a yoga pose that's incorporated in the narrative. All that information is accurate, but filtered through our hero's ironic, sometimes self-depricating, and sometimes wise perspective.
It was actually quite easy –– although it's hard to say whether that's because anyone who's been to a yoga class or done yoga before knows exactly what I'm talking about. I have, however, been quite pleased that a large number of early readers have told me that the book either made them want to get back to a yoga class or even try yoga for the first time. SARK, in fact, gave me a wonderful endorsement saying just that: “I love this luscious book! It made me want to fall madly in love while also doing more yoga!”
Downward Dog is first and foremost a work of fiction and so I want people to be caught up in the story –– a story which involves the power and possibility of transformation and forgiveness. Yoga provides the framework for that, but honestly my favorite compliments may have been from early readers who told me they missed three subway stops while reading the book, or stayed up all night because they had to get to the ending.
Apply what you've learned as a yogi –– committing to the practice over a long-time with continuous enthusiasm –– to your writing and see what happens!