Yoga and Body Image – Raising Awareness Through Book Clubs

February 12, 2015

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NOTE from Melanie Klein: When Anna Guest – Jelley and I embarked on writing and curating Yoga and Body Image: 25 Personal Stories about Beauty, Bravery, and Loving Your Body in what became a three-year project, we did so in order to highlight the complex and interwoven issues that intersect with yoga and body image as separate topics as well how they intersect with yoga and body image jointly. We hoped that by bringing forward a diverse array of voices and experiences, we could connect with a wider audience in order to inspire, heal and promote dialogue on the issues contained therein. With the emergence of book clubs examining the stories in YBI and sharing their own experiences on these topics, we feel our intentions in collaborating are being realized.

With that, I am honored to share this guest post by Erin McCloskey and encourage those living in the Twin Cities to consider joining an ongoing YBI book discussion series led by Dr. Beth Berila and Elen Bahr. Details here.

GUEST POST by Erin McCloskey.

Each month our book club takes a break from our busy lives to pull our bolsters into a circle and grow through the interpretations and experiences of one another as a community. Together we read books on a variety of topics including spiritual growth, yoga philosophy, psychology, and anything else that sparks our interest. Month to month our membership varies slightly, familiar faces mingle with new. Our book club doesn’t have many rules, you don’t even have to read the book to attend, but this discussion was a little different because we were approaching a topic that can be very personal.

This book club meeting began with just one rule, what we reveal will stay within the container of the circle, allowing us to share freely. The intimacy we have formed through friendship and our previous gatherings has made this particular meeting flow with greater ease. Our book this month was Yoga and Body Image: 25 Personal Stories about Beauty, Bravery, and Loving Your Body. As a result of my disconnected and sometimes turbulent relationship with my own body I had been anxiously anticipating the discussion.

We started with Linda Sparrowe’s story, and I recall how I felt to read the book. Those moments when the words touched so close to my own story, it was like an echo of my own experience. Honestly, I wasn’t sure if I hadn’t written parts of the book myself. It was powerful to listen to the strong, courageous women that attend our meetings slowly lowering their carefully built walls comparing their experiences. Each woman shared her struggles with body image as well as stories that were uplifting and positive. The common thread being that wherever she began her yoga practice was and remains integral to shaping the person she is today. Vulnerability offers us several things, first, once we share, we are no longer alone, and if we are lucky we realize we never were. Second, there is this opportunity to let it out, and let it go. Sharing space with our friends, celebrating our story can be a spectacular release.

Yoga and Body Image was the catalyst that evening. It opened the door to start the conversation, which is typically the hardest part. We were able to hear what has influenced and shaped one another other, both lows and highs, making deeper connections. I feel a little freer each time I share little pieces of myself. It can be intimidating, and difficult, and that is why I am grateful for all the contributors of this book. They took the first scary steps to bringing us all together in this conversation. This night we all let go a little, touching on authenticity of our own story and growing the strength of our community.

About the author: Erin McCloskey is currently studying to be a clinical mental health counselor, and is working toward completing her 200 hour yoga teacher certification. Her passion resides in bringing people together and building community through workshops, women’s circles, and book club. In the future she hopes to facilitate a program that introduces yoga, meditation, and mindfulness to women that have experienced trauma. She loves chocolate, traveling, and constantly feeding her curiosity.


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