Monday, July 13, 2009

In a recent issue of Ms. Magazine, Aimee Liu provides a moving account of living with an eating disorder. She concludes that women who suffer from the illness need to cultivate a sense of self in order to heal. Liu writes that “our bodies contain us. They carry us and work for us and give us pleasure. They speak for us when we dare not admit the truth. We owe it to ourselves to remember how to listen” (emphasis added).

After years of teaching Women’s Studies, I am convinced that Feminism offers for both women and men a powerful and empowering counter balance to misogyny. But I am also convinced that we cannot merely tell people to have a sense of self, or even empower them only intellectually and politically. If women have internalized the disembodiment that saturates U.S. culture, they often have no idea what it would feel like to become embodied. Women’s Studies (as well as other disciplines in Education) needs help students learn how to cultivate an engaged and integrated embodiment.

Yoga can provide such tools. With its emphasis on compassionate awareness, students can learn to pay attention to our bodies. Anusara® Yoga, in particular, offers some valuable ways to listen to one’s body. In an Anusara® class, students learn precise alignment principles as they move through poses. We learn how, in the words of John Friend, “to follow the breath and let her lead.” In doing so, we can cultivate an affirming and reflective way of inhabiting our bodies from the inside out, rather than the externally driven motivations that can prove unhealthy for both men and women. We can learn, then, how to better embody feminist principles.

Liu, Aimee. “The Perfect Pantomime.” Ms. 11:2 Spring 2009: 74-77. Print.

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