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Nadea's Book Recommendations for 2024

I hope your new year is off to a peaceful and restful start.


Before I started putting together this compilation, I honestly thought that I hadn’t read many books in 2023, but when I went back to see everything I had made my way through, I was actually pleasantly surprised.


For me, 2023 was the year of audiobooks and podcasts (I strongly prefer listening to things on 1.5x or 2x speed and multitasking by listening to stuff while I do other tasks), though I did make an effort to sit and read physical books (sometimes in conjunction with the corresponding audiobook), with middling success. I really did try to read more fiction and creative writing last year, but nothing really hooked me -- with the exception of a couple of the old classics, like my favourite and familiar Jules Verne and Brontë novels. I’ll keep trying in 2024!


Just like last year's list, quite a few of the books on the following recommendation list are now available in our studio library, so if you ever want to flip through them or if you would like to borrow them, feel welcome.


As a movement coach who guides people in showing up for themselves and taking care of and honouring their own bodies, I’ve observed many things about the humans who we welcome into our studio. Some of those observations include how it is very, very common for us all to be increasingly anxious and disconnected from our bodies, and how the majority of us hold ourselves and our bodies to harsh and exacting standards that, frankly, are not serving us well.


So many people come into the studio looking to be “fixed” or “healed” or "corrected" through physical exercise, assuming that our bodies are defective and wrong in some way or another. So many of us hold onto the deeply engrained societal belief that if we’re physically “healthier” (which is often mistaken to be synonymous with “thinner” or “more toned”), we’ll automatically feel better in every respect or at least somehow feel more worthy or less empty.


In truth, my observation has been that health, happiness, and well-being are almost never that simplistic, and often the things that we’re hoping to “fix” about ourselves through physical exercise actually require a more thoughtful, profound inward inspection and a much more holistic perspective.


My hope for you is that, in 2024, you may step beyond caring for yourself and your body on soley an external physical exercise level, but begin nurturing yourself from the ground up.

My hope for you is that, in 2024, you may step beyond caring for yourself and your body on soles an external physical exercise level, but begin nurturing yourself from the ground up.


If you’re looking for books to read in 2024, here are my top 5 most enthusiastic recommendations:

1. Caged Lion by John Howard Steele



My first recommendation is 100% Pilates-focussed!


If you’re a fan of the Pilates method and you enjoy learning about history, I highly recommend reading John Howard Steele’s book. John knew Joseph and Clara Pilates personally, first as a client and then as a family friend and later their lawyer, and ultimately he played a meaningful role in ensuring that Joe’s legacy and method has continued to survive all the way to today.


Joseph Pilates himself was a rather evasive, intentionally mysterious fellow, and John provides an overall history and summary of his research into where Joe came from and what can be known about him prior to him immigrating to the US and starting his studio in New York City.


John relates what it was like to go to Joe’s studio as a first-time client in New York City, and he offers a really fascinating window into how Joe intended his method to be practiced. The picture John paints of Joe is not necessarily completely flattering — in fact, there were a number of stories that John relates that made me feel quite uncomfortable, and I find myself increasingly suspicious that I probably would not have liked Joe personally nor agreed with all of his teaching or interpersonal approaches.

The book provides a very interesting narrative of the history of the Pilates method, and the events that took place once Joe died and how that affected the studio and the method in general. If you’ve ever wondered why there are “classical” and “contemporary” Pilates categories in today's industry, why some Pilates teachers approach things quite differently from others, and why there are so many “brands” of Pilates out there, this book will explain how and why that came to pass.


John’s writing style is very easygoing and personal, and I enjoyed listening to him read his own book in the audiobook version. It feels very much like listening to a grandpa relating his life story over a cup of tea (or 5 cups) — and that’s exactly what Caged Lion is. Because of that, I would add that everything that John says in his book is his opinion and his recollection, and a number of folks in the Pilates universe don’t necessarily agree with or love everything he’s written in his book (I've particularly noticed some snarky feelings from Romana enthusiasts, which I think will not be surprising to anyone who has read the book). All the same, I believe it offers a really fascinating and informative perspective on an quirky and influential man, his method, and his legacy.



2. Starfish by Lisa Fipps


This is such a beautiful, beautiful book. Starfish is written in the style of free-verse poetry and it’s quite easy to read, and, while it’s designed to speak to a young audience, it’s such a meaningful, touching read for adults as well.


Starfish is the story of a young girl, Ellie, who is learning to understand and love herself and her body while the world around her tries to make her feel small and unworthy.


I feel like Lisa’s forward says it all:


“To every kid who’s ever been told, ‘You’d be so pretty or handsome, if…' You ARE beautiful. Now. Just as you are. You deserve to be seen, to be heard, to take up room, to be noticed. So when the world tries to make you feel small, starfish!”


If you want to bring up the subjects of self-worth and bullying with children or young people, I think this is a wonderful book with which to do that. I also can attest that the book is incredibly healing for one’s inner child if you were ever bullied in school (for your appearance or anything else) or if you felt hurt by people who should have loved and protected you.


Fair warning though: It’s probably a good idea to keep a box of tissues on hand for this read, and maybe a journal nearby. And maybe, for good measure, proactively schedule an appointment with your therapist to discuss any feelings Starfish might bring forward. 😆



3.The Body is Not an Apology by Sonya Renee Taylor


Who has the right to take up space? Is there a wrong way to have a body? We aren’t born resenting and critiquing our bodies or the bodies of others, so where does that come from and when does that start? What can we do about it?

In The Body is Not an Apology, Sonya explains to us how body shame causes us to view all bodies in narrow terms like “good” or “bad” or “better” or “worse” than our own, and urges us to nurture what she calls “radical self-love” — an approach that invites us to love our own bodies in a form where we understand and and accept the bodies of others.


Her book is written in a very conversational and authentic way that is easy to read, but quite profound and thought-provoking. She includes what she calls “Unapologetic Inquiries” or questions for self-reflection throughout the book, which I think is a lovely and effective way for us to take these concepts out of just being theoretical and brings them into practical application, leading to a positive impact on ourselves, others, and the world around us, hopefully enabling actual change and progress.


I’ll leave you with a quote from Sonya:

“What if we all became committed to the idea that no one should have to apologize for being a human in a body? What if we made room for everybody? How might we change our lives? How might we change the world?”

“What if we all became committed to the idea that no one should have to apologize for being a human in a body? What if we made room for everybody? How might we change our lives? How might we change the world?”


4. “You Just Need to Lose Weight" and 19 Other Myths About Fat People by Aubrey Gordon


Have you ever found yourself saying any of these things (to yourself or out loud)?

  • “Being fat is a choice”

  • “Any fat person can become thin if they try hard enough”

  • “Weight loss is the result of healthy choices and should be celebrated”

  • “Obesity is the heading cause of death in the United States”

  • “The BMI is an objective measure of size and health”

  • “Accepting fat people glorifies obesity”

  • “I don’t like gaining weight but I don’t treat fat people differently”

  • “Skinny shaming is just as bad as fat shaming.”

  • “The word ‘fat’ is an insult and people shouldn’t say it about themselves or others”


You wouldn’t be alone! These are all super common thoughts, and you may not even realize that there’s anything to question about them.


The thing is, all of those statements are MYTHS. Commonly held myths, but still myths. And those myths are making people’s lives worse and in some cases they're holding us back from living our happiest, healthiest lives.


“You Just Need to Lose Weight” is an easy-to-ready book that practically and accessibly lays out educational, thoughtful, science- and evidence-based explanations and answers to those popular beliefs. (The notes/bibliography section is hefty and I love that.)


The audiobook is a breeze to listen to. Similar to book #4, Aubrey also includes questions for reflection throughout her book so that we can take the time to analyze and reason through our own thoughts and beliefs and figure out how these concepts play out in our own lives.



5. Anchored by Deb Dana


If there’s anything I can say about 90% of the humans I encounter (in and out of the studio), it’s that their nervous systems are NOT well-regulated. Generally, we're all wildly out of touch with our bodies and many of us struggle to feel present and understand ourselves on a mind-body level.


It is not uncommon for brand new Pilates clients to try out their first 1:1 class with us, only to be surprised to find that being so present in their body, taking deep breaths, and attempting to feel somewhat relaxed brings on waves of emotion or disregulation or for them to be taken aback by how vulnerable and triggered they feel to "reassociate" after being primarily dissociated from their bodies. Many of us are held together with tension, rigidity, constant movement, and intensity, and being invited to move out of that state of being into something softer can be alarming or sometimes it can just elicit total collapse.


As movement instructors, we’re totally fine to roll with and hold space for whatever energy your body brings to the studio on a given day, even if that means that being in your body brings on tears or nervousness or feeling out of sorts, but that can also be a sign to us that a person may be out of touch with their nervous system and perhaps stuck in dissociation or perhaps in a “fight or flight” mode of being. As teachers, when it's professionally appropriate, we have been known to gently suggest that some folks consider taking care of their minds and nervous systems in addition to (or sometimes even before) beginning a physical movement practice.


These days, there are so many different approaches people can use to learn how to take care of our nervous systems, and one such approach is “polyvagal theory”. Put as simply as possible, polyvagal theory works with the idea that if we understand how our nervous system works on a biological level, we can then improve its health and get to know ourselves better, creating a stronger feeling of safety, groundedness, resilience, and flexibility.


I still strongly advocate for people to make use of guided professional help through individual or group counselling and therapy, but if you aren’t so sure about working with a psychological health professional or if it’s not accessible to you, Deb Dana’s book, Anchored, can provide a helpful, thoughtful place to start on your own.


Deb takes the time to explain the science of our nervous systems and how they work and why they act the way they do, and then she gives exercises and methods to actually start applying what you learn. I personally used the audio book as well as the physical copy of the book, and I would recommend having a physical copy if only to make use of the illustrations Deb uses to explain certain concepts. I don’t think this is a book that is well-suited to breezing through or listening quickly; expect that you will need to take a bit of time to digest the content.


If you’re intrigued but you’re still feeling confused about what polyvagal theory is, you may enjoy watching this informational video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SlhFrBoEnxU


____


If you find yourself picking up a copy of any of these books, I'd love to hear your thoughts! If you have questions or if you'd like to chat more about the books above, I'm also happy for you to reach out.


So far this year, this is my list of books that I'm hoping I will make it through in 2024:

  • Breath by James Nestor (I've already started this one and I have mixed feelings about it so far; will hold back judgement until I'm done)

  • Too Flexible to Feel Good by Adell Bridges and Celest Pereira

  • Sick Enough: A Guide to the Medical Complications of Eating Disorders by Dr. Jennifer Gaudiani

  • Lifting Heavy Things by Laura Khoudari

  • The Beauty Myth by Naomi Wolf


If you have recommendations, send them my way!


Happy reading!


- Nadea




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