Life’s Not Yoga (2020) – Jacqui Burnett

Title:Life’s Not Yoga or is it…? Finding Love in the Chaos of Life
Author:Jacqui Burnett
Publisher:Sophie Blue Press
Date of publication:2020
Star Rating:⭐⭐⭐⭐
Disclaimer:Jacqui Burnett kindly sent me a copy of her memoir in exchange for an honest review

“This is just yoga…This is an uncomfortable pose. Find comfort in the discomfort”

The title of this incredibly personal memoir refers to every single step on the path of author Jacqui Burnett’s life. Not just her childhood fraught with trauma, or her teenage years of confusion and experimentation or even the near-death experiences as a young adult. It refers to what came afterwards, and everything in between.

The author grew up in South Africa, and describes her life during the 1970s and 1980s as a blur of family holidays, church meetings, running around as a tomboy with her four brothers, a mother who said very little and a father whose relationship with his daughter was fraught with tension and anger. It is this relationship with her father that will mark Life’s Not Yoga with the first of many obstacles and harrowing life experiences. As Jacqui is growing up, and surrounded by her large family, she can’t seem to understand why the family’s maid was in fact not considered ‘family’. She couldn’t understand why her family’s notion of Christianity was so different to what her own spirituality eventually led her to believe. In fact there were a lot of things that Jacqui didn’t quite understand about her upbringing and about apartheid, and about preferring to be a ‘tomboy’ rather than the well-behaved girl in a dress her parents envisioned.

At fifteen Jacqui is diagnosed with chronic scoliosis, and attempts suicide twice as a teenager. This is only the beginning of an eventful adolescence that culminated in an almost fatal car accident in her twenties. Jacqui’s life reads like something out of a book. The type of life experiences usually scattered among several people, Jacqui’s are all her own.

As an adult she married Greg, and when that didn’t work out and she met Michael her father refused to acknowledge his new son-in-law. Burnett describes her grief and guilt at the eventual demise of her marriage to Michael whom she’d spent ten years with, and shared a business. When she finally makes the decision to divorce Michael and pursue her passion for writing (something she’d been considering for a while), she takes herself to the Rocky Mountains of Colorado and rents a cabin where she can be alone with her work. It is here that she will meet Dan…

Other than describing a typical South African childhood living in Somerset West and then moving to Natal (now Kwa-Zulu Natal) as a young girl, Burnett’s challenging relationship with her parents taints most if not all of her early years. Her journey is a very personal one, as most memoirs tend to be, and yet Burnett’s raw and unadulterated honesty are rare traits to find in the genre. Life’s Not Yoga bounces between stream-of-consciousness and the exasperation of ‘moving-on’ and honest to goodness declarations of frustration at her own life choices. Burnett opens up to her readers in the most admirable and courageous of ways, and I would be remiss as an empathetic reader if I did not acknowledge how difficult that must have been.

Whilst the first half of the memoir delivers a deeply entertaining and fascinating foray into her humble beginnings, the middle chapters focus on the demise of her marriage and the possibility of a new relationship, and how deeply and easily we can fall right back into love – even if its not always the future we imagined. Burnett’s business affiliations fall to the wayside (and cause major anxiety in the process) and she is forced to physically let go of a lot of what she spent decades working towards. In the interim her relationship with yoga and writing allow her to work through the fact that not only had she experienced a total of eight near-death experiences, participated in two divorces, but had also kept a dark secret about her father for most of her life.

Jacqui Burnett is a superb story-teller. Her life has not been easy, and it is an honor to read the prose of an incessantly curious and deeply courageous human being who seems to have made a lot of sacrifices to pursue her dreams. Through all the trauma, and all the drama, and the fear and the pain Jacqui Burnett shows an incredible strength that need not be defined by her family, or the men in her life or even in the close female friendships she honors – her strength is defined by her own ability to love, to be loved and to tell her story knowing it is laid out there for all the world to see, and ultimately find comfort in.

2 thoughts on “Life’s Not Yoga (2020) – Jacqui Burnett”

  1. I really enjoyed reading your review of Life’s Not Yoga, Meg. You did such a good job of portraying Jacqui’s story as a whole. Jacqui certainly went through a lot of sadness and trauma in her life.

    Reply
    • Thank you so much for your kind words regarding this review. I both enjoyed reading AND reviewing it. Jacqui’s story is sad and beautiful at the same time, which is a fact most of us are able to relate to.

      Reply

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