I wasn’t entirely sure of what to expect from this book when I got it to review. Based on the title, I thought it would probably be a “do this, do that, and you’ll get this result” sort of book. I was pleasantly surprised that the author did not simply lead the reader by the hand, but presented a rather well-rounded approach to her subject.

Author Sierra Bender runs a program called “Bootcamp for Goddesses,” based on a process she refers to as “4 Body Fit.” It is a retreat that helps the participants balance their physical, mental, emotional and spiritual bodies. This is not, however, an extended promotional book to bring people to her workshops. It is an independent presentation and explanation of her approach to balancing these four bodies, which the reader should be able to implement on their own.

After a rather lengthy introductory chapter, the each of the next four chapters is devoted to one of these bodies. Each chapter is laid out similarly, so once you’ve finished the first chapter on the spiritual body, you know subsequent chapters will follow the same formula and pace. Bender associates each body with a particular goddess, and includes legend and lore to help underscore how that goddess manifests in relation to the body being explored.

She then explores how that body functions, how it manifests within your life, and relates experiences (her own and those of workshop participants) to illustrate her points. She also defines what makes up a healthy body versus an unhealthy body (remembering, of course that “body” refers to the spiritual, mental, and emotional bodies as distinct from the physical body). She provides a series of questions to ask yourself in order to assess your own health, and then provides suggestions to help you bring each body into balance.

I ran hot and cold when it came to these suggestions. She provides a relatively wide range of methods for the reader to try. I think this was an effort to accommodate as many individual needs as possible, and hopefully avoid distancing the reader by presenting a narrow, dogmatic effort that didn’t resonate with them. By offering so many options, however, many were presented in an overly simple manner. If the reader chooses to work with, say, crystals or angel cards, they are doing so with minimal information.

Each chapter ends, though, with a good section rooted in yoga practice, which is clearly her strongest area of expertise. Bender begins with breathing exercises specific to the body one is balancing, and concludes with yoga poses that reach the same area. Also included with each yoga pose are a list of contraindications, in case you have physical issues that might affect you as you try each one.

As for the role of Dr. Migdow, based on the introduction he and Bender befriended each other during yoga teacher training. Other than that, I’m not entirely sure what value he contributes to the book. Perhaps the publishers thought that an “M.D.” on the cover would lend extra legitimacy to it? In the course of each chapter (including the introductory chapters, by the way), Migdow relates one or two anecdotal cases that he believes illustrates the benefits of the 4-body fit idea. Unfortunately, they are more of a non-sequitur than an appropriate illustration. What turned me off more than any other was his final anecdote, in the chapter for the physical body. He describes treating a woman for inadequate thyroid function, but bases his diagnosis on symptoms alone, without lab tests to confirm his diagnosis. While his focus throughout the book is that a good healer must treat the whole patient, I question anyone who treats a physical illness without confirmation of that particular illness.

I think this book is best for someone who feels a bit disconnected, as though things in their life are just a bit - well, out-of-whack at the moment. It is a reasonable guide for self-discovery. Of course, like so many other self-help books, you will only get out of it what you put into it.

~review by KatSai

Authors: Sierra Bender with Jeff Migdow, M.D.

Llewellyn Worldwide, 2009

pp. 318, $21.95