I know nothing about yoga. I know even less about Nepal. Neither of these obstacles, however, prevented me from perusing John P. Vourlis’ captivating new book, “Yoga for Freedom“. I cracked open the 450-page tome with a degree of skepticism, thinking a book about twenty travelers wandering through Nepal to “unite the spirit of yoga with the beauty of Nepal’s natural landscape, to help affect change and improve the lives of the children of the Nepal Orphan Home,” would not capture my attention.
My skepticism dissipated almost immediately. I’m a sucker for kids, and a real sucker for kids living in poverty, seeking to escape from indentured servitude. And I’ll admit that while I knew nothing about either yoga or Nepal, I had intense curiosity regarding both, but never had time to explore either.
Until now. I’m pleased to report that Yoga for Freedom is both a surprisingly brisk read, educational, but also emotionally compelling.
The work pulls together the journal entries of twenty travelers – fifteen women and five men – offering observations about life in Nepal and plenty of subtextual spiritual insights (if you are attuned to them).
I mentioned the book is a brisk read, because it is wisely presented in conversational prose. There’s a false perception among new authors that they must somehow elevate the prose so as to please literary critics, as opposed to remaining true to their own voice. Thankfully, Mr. Vourlis lets his companions engage us with their own words, in their own styles, so as to preserve the journey’s immediacy. The documentary tone is reminiscent of Louis Malle’s famous documentary series, Phantom India, and thus projects a cinema-verité quality to the text.
I appreciated getting to know each of the travelers as individuals, and the wide variety of photographs offered. This all serves to enhance the documentary experience and to draw readers into the personal stories, an absolutely essential element for the book to succeed.
The book ultimately fulfills its purpose. I feel almost as if I have traveled to Nepal, met these people and, most importantly, I have been moved by the struggle of the children of this beautiful country. One can only hope that the book finds its way into the hands of philanthropists and the spiritually aware, so as to lift these extraordinary children out of their plight and help them achieve their own transcendence.