Hunger, Hope and Healing by Sarahjoy Marsh

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by Ivan Nahem
Hunger, Hope and Healing, Yoga Teacher Magazine

Sarahjoy Marsh’s Hunger Hope and Healing, subtitled "A Yoga Approach to Reclaiming Your Relationship to Your Body and Food" and recently published by Shambhala, will demand some commitment from you. We all have our demons and this book will help you deal and heal, if you commit to its suggestions. Sarahjoy has been engaged in confronting those demons for ages and she shares her wisdom here.

From her rich experience she knows the temptations, the rationalizations, the calculations. She wants you to throw your scale away and take a more holistic view of your body and your self-image. In fact she has some pretty fine suggestions for how you might even re-frame your questions ‒ for example, what am I really hungry for?

Along the way she presents a compendium of yogasana that can be applied for particular therapeutic purposes, in the quest to find a way to manage our addictions (the emphasis in this book is on food addiction),  by coming into a healthier relationship with ourselves. Her strategies are well-formulated. I was particularly drawn to GCWD ‒ Getting Comfortable with Discomfort. As Iyengar has noted, this is a key principle in yoga and in living our lives beneficially, in other words the practice of resigning to working through discomfort. Yet this is but one of the powerful reinforcements of a healthy outlook toward the body presented in this book.

With the help of introspective yoga she unearths the roots of desire, the basis of addiction. She counsels gentle ways of dealing here, not going in with metrics and harshness, but lovingly delving deeper into what the injuries are and attempting to untangle those roots.

I have a few quibbles. It is altogether so female-oriented that I think it should be identified, in the subtitle, as being for women, because over and over she addresses women, rather than people. There is no consideration of the male point of view, and we know that men suffer in these same realms, so I find odd the silence on this score. That said, when you get into the text it’s evident that the diction and outlook wouldn’t play well in a masculine setting, and I think it’s fine to have a certain strict orientation, but should it not be placed up front?

My other yoga nerd reservation is that I sometimes wonder how far we can take yoga from its sources. I’m no yoga purist by any means, but when Svadyaya, which  originally meant the study of scripture, is cast as “self-study and self-empathy,” and when Isvara Pranidana (and don’t get me started whether it should be capitalized or not), originally meaning devotion to God, becomes “forgiveness and freedom” ‒ well, this is tracking very far afield. Sarahjoy has taught for twenty years, so she has to know what’s what, and to me this is taking shortcuts. She could drop some of the more repetitive material and add in some scholarship.

But yes these are quibble, merely quibbles! All in all this is a terrific book for anyone who wants to use  yoga and spiritual practice to cope with tendencies toward self-harm, for those interested in ‘recovering’ from self-harming behaviors, presenting in a clear and cogent manner. This teacher knows her stuff.

Ivan is founder/editor of YTM.

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