Some things feel inevitable, and having negative feelings about one's body seems to be ubiquitous in today's world. Body Mindful Yoga offers a solution to finding a balanced and harmonious relationship about one's body.
As the title indicates, the solution is based on yoga, which might feel daunting for a person out-of-shape, but the secret has more to do with mindfulness than movement. Moreover, the crux is how we talk to ourselves and each other. Authors Butera and Kreatsoulas show us how negatively we talk about ourselves ("I can never do X"), our weird morality and shame around food (this food is 'good' to eat, that food is 'bad' -- and so am I for eating it), the aggressive language of fitness (“sweat is fat crying”), and the language of fashion and social status. They examines the damage people do to themselves without even realizing it -- an eye-opening perspective, I suspect for many of us. The healing comes as they also offer an alternative to that detrimental self-talk through powerful mantras that erode the detrimental messages. Only then do they venture into yoga poses using clear, lifelike sketches and succinct instruction.
The techniques described are largely based on The Butera Method of Personal Transformation, developed by the first author, but both have a background in yoga therapy. Using body mindful language means using words that validate and affirm instead of disparaging comments -- mentally as well as verbally. I particularly appreciated their perspective that language, while influenced by external factors, is generated by the individual, and therefore we have the power to change our narratives.
The four-part structure of the book -- “Listen,” “Learn,” “Love,” and “Live” -- takes the reader from self-analysis and reflection progressively outward through physical movement.
"Listen" establishes a baseline for going forward through exploratory questions (e.g., "how do you describe your body?", "what is your definition of a healthy body?", and "what is your definition of a beautiful body?") and journaling to identify how words have created our personal narrative. The chapter concludes by creating our goals and setting the intention for this process.
"Learn" expands on the use of language as the authors review the impact of common slogans and sayings on self-talk. Here is where we are given alternative statements to counteract these extremely prevalent detrimental messages. The final chapter in this section offers language suggestions to address other influences that may have contributed to a negative body narrative, including religion, ageism, and nicknames.
In "Love" we begin to incorporate yoga practices into our lives to affirm and strengthen positive narratives. These practices include mantras, affirmations, and sensory activities alongside sixteen basic asanas, or physical postures. These postures encourage both outward energy and inward introspection and are illustrated using a simple black and white drawing accompanied by a short descriptive explanation. A daily practice of both the physical and other yoga techniques is recommended.
The last section, “Live”, is about bringing the benefits of mindful yoga to others as a "body mindful ambassador." This practice is not meant to be an active or proselytizing role. Instead, it is one in which we make a point of listening compassionately to others and make the effort to recognize them for their internal worth rather than external characteristics.
The beginning third was overly focused on how transformative their ideology is, and how messed up the world. I found myself doing a lot of mental editing to tone their . . enthusiasm . . . down. The authors are keen to “radically alter the way we see and value ourselves as well as the way we view, evaluate, and relate to others and the world at large" and Body Mindful Yoga is “part of a movement rooted in social justice and anti-oppression.” It was a bit of a slog to get to the journal and awareness exercises, but they were excellent.
If you ever feel bad about your body you will likely find value here.
~review by Lisa Mc Sherry
Authors: Robert Butera and Jennifer Kreatsoulas