Last week I had the great pleasure of meeting Seane Corn, internationally known yoga instructor and one of twenty-five contributors to the up-coming book Yoga and Body Image. Seane was in town at The Yoga Center of Minneapolis for a five-day intensive she co-presented as part of her organization Off the Mat, Into the World, which helps promote community action for good. I recognized her by her mane of fiercely curly hair and waved her into the coffee shop as she started walking past. Her warm smile and signature eyebrow rang familiar from the yoga DVD I’d practiced years ago to the many images I’ve seen of her in magazines over the past decade.
As I sat and talked with her, the genuine passion and care she holds for supporting others in their own journey, and in turn having them be able to support and encourage others, became a key theme. Her goal for social outreach is impressive, exponential, and taking hold in the yoga community and beyond. Sometimes her goal is as grand as raising impressive funds to support communities in crisis. Other times it’s as humble and (seemingly) simple as requesting her photo not be manipulated on the cover of a magazine.
“Even though it’s in my contract that my image can’t be Photoshopped, they still do it sometimes,” she said in frustration. “I’m 48 and they have me looking 27. They’re presenting an ideal that no one can live up to, that I can’t even live up to. It does no good.” I wanted to yell to her Thank you! Thank you, thank you, thank you, for trying to start the ball rolling toward healthier body image. It’s such a complex issue rooted in the many intertwining threads of society, but Seane’s approach was as simple as it gets: show the world the truth so we can begin to once again recognize authentic beauty in others and in ourselves.
“I wholeheartedly agree,” I replied.
“Why did you think this was important? What made you take on this book?” she asked simply. Ah, this question.
One of the curiosities I’m most often asked about my job is, “So what’s your favorite book you’ve worked on and why did you do that topic?” It’s such an impossible question because each book has its own spark and in some way I’ve personally connected with every one I’ve acquired. Of course I’m looking for what people want and need. Sometimes that hits directly home. In the realm of spiritual self-help and wellness I’m blessed in that my job creates the opportunity to constantly glean new insights into my own healing and development. However, there is one topic that hits the “personal” level more deeply than others for me, and that is yoga.
I’ve enjoyed yoga for years. Like so many others I’ve found relief from chronic ailments and balance to a sometimes too-loud internal world. When I’m on the mat I learn to focus only on what exists within that boundary. I honor my limits, letting go of the mental chatter to focus on the physical present. I breathe, I move, I stretch. I breathe some more, sometimes find strength I didn’t know I had, and occasionally shed some tears. Over the past few years, tears have been more frequent as yoga has helped me release the pain and grief of losing my favorite yoga instructor, my sister. And this is where the topic, of course, has become so deeply personal. And it’s exactly why I knew this book was needed.
There have been two books in particular over the past couple of years that caught my immediate attention: The Yoga of Food, which was released in June, and Yoga and Body Image, which will be available this October. These books deal with the issues we have with our bodies, including addictions and eating disorders (but not limited to, as topics also span metanl illness, race, disability, sexual orientation, weight, age, life challenge, abuse, etc.). These themes are often misunderstood, yet wildly rampant.
Chances are you know someone who is struggling or has dealt with one or both of these challenges, if not you yourself. Both of these are issues that my sister wrestled, which ultimately resulted in her untimely passing. I touched the edges of anorexia as a teenager as well, but was pulled back before it took a firm hold. In my case, an emotional need was met and I was able to more healthfully deal with whatever had been spurring my imbalanced relationship with food. But I’m brutally aware that’s not always the outcome.
Whatever the case, these issues tangle into our emotions, mental health, physical wellbeing and perception, social interaction, and more. The topics are so incredibly important, yet often are inaccurately judged and socially shunned.
“People are finally starting to really pay attention to these issues in a broader way,” I offered. “The videos showing stages of image manipulation became so popular last year and it opened my eyes. I feel like we’re waking up to reality. We need more of that, and this book took the reins and ran head-on in that direction.” Seane nodded, understanding.
When we don’t see true representation in the world around us it becomes a very difficult hurdle and one that we often may not even fully perceive. When the “norm” becomes alienating for so many, how is that normal? When negative self-thinking and harmful actions to fit impossible standards become typical practice isn’t that a sounding alarm for change? But how?
Knowledge. Truth. Community. And that’s exactly what you’ll find here.
The pairing with yoga provides an exceptional lens for clarity and mindfulness around these complex issues that blindly take hold, steering our lives and taking them away from us. These books shine a light on often hidden topics, allowing you to be much more aware of what’s true, what’s false, and what you can change or embrace. Also important is witnessing others standing up and voicing their experiences, which can help you understand your own, knowing you’re not alone.
I’ve been inspired and honored to have had the chance to help these kinds of books into the world. They were too late for my sister, but I’m so glad they’re here in time to support you. Read them, know yourself better, and pass it on so the knowledge can grow… exponentially.