I’ve mentioned, several times, how one of the reasons I wanted Sophie to be a yoga instructor is that I’m tired of the flaky, clichéd way that profession is often portrayed, especially in cozy mysteries.
The yoga instructors under whom I’ve studied are smart, dedicated, well-trained over a wide variety of topics, sensitive, compassionate, and work to live their practice off the mat, not just during class.
Have I ever taken a class from a flake? Or a hypocrite? Yes. But those experiences have been few and far between. I’ve pegged them for who they really are pretty fast, and not continued my study with them. There are also a couple of well-known names whose behavior I disagree with. I don’t take class with them. I don’t bad mouth them, but I don’t engage, either.
In the Nautical Namaste series, it was important to me that my protagonist be bright, curious, compassionate. I wanted her to do her best to live her path. Because she is human, she fails sometimes.
Jelena, who owns the yoga studio in New York and fires Sophie at the top of SAVASANA, is also flawed. She is a business woman. She wants her studio to succeed in the competitive New York City health and wellness market. She worries about branding and marketing, as she must. She underestimates Sophie’s value, because Sophie doesn’t push herself into the spotlight or blow her own horn.
Alyssa, a colleague at the yoga studio, is ambitious. She is not a flaky cliché, either. But her ambition means she handles Sophie as competition rather than colleague. She is willing to cross lines Sophie is not. She is an example of someone who does not live the teachings off the mat — or, at least, not to the extent Sophie tries to live them.
(Note: Every time Alyssa comes up in the series, I always feel I should apologize to my friend and colleague, author Alyssa Maxwell. The Alyssa in the book was created and named before I met Alyssa Maxwell, and was not in the least inspired by the author. The character, who will be Sophie’s antagonist in more than one book, named herself, and is determined to keep that name. By the way, if you haven’t read Alyssa’s books, I recommend them. She’s a wonderful writer).
Sophie is also aware of her flaws. She realizes it when she gives in to a moment of pettiness or snarkiness. People underestimate her because she is kind. That’s THEIR character flaw, not hers.
She reminds herself to walk her talk. She reminds herself, when necessary, to be her best self. She doesn’t pretend not to live up to her own expectations sometimes. But she tries to learn from each situation and to do better.
Isn’t that part of the reason why we choose this practice?
One of the things I love about studying at Kripalu is that we are encouraged to know that we are fine wherever we are, wherever we start in the moment. We are not awful or failures or worthless. We have basic worth because we are who we are.
That doesn’t mean we don’t try to be better. We practice. We improve. We plateau. We regress.
Sophie is kind. She tries to give everyone room to be who they are. She tries not to judge. However, when someone is cruel to her or to someone else, she takes action. She is not fond of the person who is murdered early in SAVASANA AT SEA. It turns out that few people on the ship were fond of the murder victim. That saddens Sophie. It also contributes to her determination that the victim gets justice. The murder can’t be ignored; the murderer can’t get away.
Yes, the stakes rise when certain assumptions are made about Sophie’s connection to the victim, and the assumptions about what Sophie will do next. But her basic belief in justice fuel her actions over the course of the book.
Sophie is a person who walks her talk. She lives her yoga practice on and off the mat. She is not sanctimonious or judgmental. She doesn’t expect everyone to live or think the way she does. But she demands basic human dignity, even for those with whom she disagrees. She’s in a high-stress situation, and has to make quick decisions, thinking on her feet. In most cases, she chooses to err on the side of kindness. In some cases, she responds out of anger or hurt. In other cases, she has to make a different decision to save her life or the life of someone about whom she cares.
This dynamic, this friction, between being who she is and who she wants to be, how she wants to improve, is fertile ground for a writer. I’m looking forward to exploring her progress, and, sometimes, her regressions, throughout the series.