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Book Review: Body Aware

I reviewed this book which was provided for free by the publisher. However, I do not receive any compensation for reviews. All book reviews are My personal and subjective opinion.

Before I review a book for my blog I have a number of factors to consider. Do I find this topic interesting? Will my readers find this topic interesting? Is this book on brand for me? These questions result in an eclectic mix of literature, and now begs the question, "Why would a professional dominatrix review a book on dance and movement therapy?"

Most would agree that when it comes to BDSM there are a few commonly heard truths, namely that BDSM is psychological; BDSM isn't therapy but is therapeutic; and communication is key. With these idioms in mind, I felt Body Aware fell squarely in my realm of interest and in line with my nature. After all, I always want to leave you better than I found you, and what does a Dominatrix do if not control you and your movement?

Though I am familiar with counseling and mental health, Hornthal took me on a journey into foreign territory. Armed with highlighters, I colored my way through the text, underlining quotes, spotlighting terms, and emphasizing exercises. Reading Body Aware demanded the concentration I use for studying as this was exciting new material for me to absorb. Hornthal introduces theorists, concepts, and vocabulary then breaks them down so the reader can incorporate them into the practices provided.

Dance and movement therapy (DMT) may sound intimidating or laughable depending on who you are, but it's very different from what you might expect. Every function of the body requires movement and movement is the most primitive way of communicating. When I have someone in my dungeon, I'm reading their body language--movement--they are using to express their feelings in the moment even (especially!) when they can't use their words. I'm frequently told by submissives that they have trouble "getting out of their head" and they enjoy BDSM to get back into their body.

"When you have been wired to live in your mind it is both scary and liberating to think, challenge, and explore what lives in your body. When you feel imprisoned by your mind, your body can be what sets you free" (p. 7).

Hornthal says, "the more restriction present in the body, the more confined we become in our minds" using the connection between posture and emotional state to illustrate her point. Personally, I have heard similar sentiments from many a rope bunny or bondage enthusiast. Later in Body Aware we're shown how external factors can influence our movement and movement patterns. Using these examples we can see how our life experiences can shape the way we move and communicate with others. What movement therapy aims to do is change the way your brain is wired by changing the way you move. If "the body keeps the score", Hornthal teaches how to clear the board.

Body Aware has unquestionably given me a new perspective on my role as a top and a Dominant. Though unintentional, I am frequently conducting similar DMT exercises--asking a submissive to think about how their body feels; reminding them to breathe; to relax; awakening unused muscle groups; have sissies mind their posture; challenging their typical way of walking, sitting, or speaking; adult babies reacquaint themselves with crawling; pet players explore atypical floor movements. At the end of a session, most s-types feel changed in some way.

Having worked through the book and come out the other side, I found Body Aware to be enlightening and approachable. Hornthal's anecdotes were enjoyable and her work is inclusive of those with disabilities, never limiting anyone despite what impediments they have. Common phenomenon were explained, such as feeling "small" or the discomfort of traveling a new path to a familiar destination, making Body Aware relatable to everyone. I will be revisiting Body Aware again in the future and would recommend it to others who wish to become more attuned with themselves.

You can buy Body Aware here.

About the Author

Erica Hornthal is a licensed clinical professional counselor, board-certified dance/movement therapist, and the CEO and founder of Chicago Dance Therapy. Since graduating with her MA in Dance/Movement Therapy and Counseling from Columbia College Chicago, Erica has worked with thousands of patients aged 3-107. Known as "The Therapist Who Moves You," Hornthal is changing the way people see movement with regard to mental health.


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