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My bedside table is piled with books about yoga practice, meditation, social justice, plus the bestsellers that I need to read to make sure I’m au courant. I look forward to all of them. But I’m not going to lie. I read all day for a living and after a long day poring over serious subjects, sometimes I want to read something light, fun, and romantic.
Enter Incense and Sensibility by Sonali Dev. Think Jane Austen meets Bollywood, with a modern, multicultural cast of characters. Best of all: The main character is a yoga instructor. A yoga therapist, to be more exact.
The premise: India Dashwood, a third-generation yoga teacher, has to help navigate her mother’s critical illness and save the family’s yoga studio and incense business. In the midst of this family crisis, she receives a request to use her yoga skills to help Yash Raje, the state’s first South Asian gubernatorial candidate, overcome his severe anxiety attacks. After an assassination attempt, he can’t face his adoring campaign crowds. Everyone is counting on India to help him get back in the race.
The problem: A decade prior, India and Yash shared a magical evening that neither ever forgot. Now Yash is engaged to a beautiful activist with the makings of the perfect political spouse. But the energy between Yash and India is a heat that wavers between animosity and attraction.
A nod to Austen and India
If you’ve read Austen’s novels or watched literally any rom-com, you can guess how the story ends. What makes it extra fun for yoga folks is that it’s a love letter to the practice, with plenty of relatable references and nods to yoga philosophy.
For example, when we meet India, she’s finishing up the Namaste Yogi retreat in Costa Rica. “That name always made India cringe, but it wasn’t something she had any control over. Calling yoga students ‘yogis’ was quite a stretch. A yogi was someone who had harnessed their mind and body, so it was never regulated by desire.”
India is a role model yoga teacher. She practices Reiki on Yash’s bodyguard and prepares Ayurvedic meals for her mother. She and Yash have a deep discussion on the finer points of the Mahabharata, and she does her best to help him heal by putting him back in touch with his yogic roots. Before long, “he’d been obsessively practicing the pranayama India had taught him every morning and meditating through the Surya Namaskar.”
The book is part of Sonali Dev’s series that modernizes Austen’s story lines with a beautiful, cross-cultural cast of characters, coping with challenges that are contemporary and timeless—and it’s the perfect addition to any crowded bedside table.