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Monday, April 6, 2020

Yoga, media literacy and love

By Emma Kivlin

With conversations around self-love, body positivity and self care on the rise in recent years, women around the world are looking inward and discussing the ways media influences them.

The Embody Love Movement is an international nonprofit organization founded with a focus on empowering women and girls, according to their website.

In their mission statement, the organization states their goal is to help women of all ages celebrate their inner beauty, commit to kindness and contribute to meaningful change in the world through workshops and community organizing.

The organization was founded by clinical psychologist and yoga instructor Melody Moore, who has spent over seven years in a private practice that specializes in eating disorder recovery and body image issues.

To meet the widespread need for discussions around these issues, the organization hosts workshops around the world, with each regional program run by trained facilitators who follow a curriculum created by Moore.

Minta Allred, the lead facilitator trainer in Bellingham, has been working with Moore and the Embody Love Movement since 2015.

“It’s a program that’s ultimately trying to save lives and prevent this epidemic of young girls and women of all ages having to feel like they’re not enough simply because of the body that [they’re] in,” Allred said.

Participant ages range from seven years olds to women in their mid 70s. According to their website, in order to accommodate all age groups, there are three levels of workshops that vary in focus and intensity.

According to their website, workshops facilitate activities that help participants embrace and love their bodies, as well as learn to reduce negative self-talk by breaking down media influences that make many people feel bad about themselves.

Allred said Embody Love Movement started as female-only and was primarily at girls-only schools, but the organization has since become more inclusive and open.

According to Allred, all workshops have a component of yoga and meditation with the goal of showing women that all bodies and people from all walks of life can be active. She said contrary to the popular belief that women have to be a certain body type, age, ability level or economic status to afford to go to a yoga studio, Embody Love Movement aims to make yoga accessible to all people.

Allred said she became more focused on yoga and the positive effect it has on body image while she was studying to achieve a Bachelor of Arts in human development through yoga studies at Prescott College. Allred was focusing her senior thesis around body image and the healing aspects of yoga when she first heard about the Embody Love Movement.

Allred also works as a yoga instructor at 3 Oms Yoga off of Cornwall Avenue in downtown Bellingham and has facilitated over 35 Embody Love Movement workshops, she said.

“If we want others to feel respected, we must respect ourselves,” Allred said. “It all starts with how we first engage with ourselves.”

A woman stands with her back to the camera, wearing a white t-shirt with "embody love" printed on it in the form of a heart.
Embody Love Movement uses yoga in their workshops to help people connect with their bodies. // Photo courtesy of Minta Allred

Other activities include media literacy exercises and discussions on dismantling beauty myths and common cultural beliefs on what makes a person beautiful or attractive, standards that are very difficult if not impossible to achieve, Allred said.

In each workshop, participants analyze physical and digital media such as popular magazines, Facebook and Instagram.

Allred said she often co-facilitates workshops with other Bellingham facilitators like Liz Clift. Clift, who completed the facilitator training in February under Allred’s instruction, has since started leading teen and adult workshops in Bellingham.

She said her most recent workshop was with 16 teenage girls, the largest group of teenagers she’s facilitated so far. She said there were siblings, schoolmates, a few repeat attendees and some younger girls moving into the older age group in attendance.

Allred said the Embody Love Movement also works on strengthening the relationships women have with other women. She said many women view each other as competition in life, but it doesn’t have to be that way.

“One of the most powerful pieces of the movement is that it shows women that they can be friends with each other,” Allred said.

Michelle Christensen, a Western student who has been a facilitator for a little over a year, got involved after learning about the organization through 3 Oms Studio. She said she is currently working on ways to welcome people into the organization’s community and create ways for those already a part of the Embody Love Movement to continue their growth.

Participants sit on the floor on yoga mats, writing on pieces of paper.
Facilitators guide paticipants in media literacy activities to break down the messages they take in on a daily basis. // Photo courtesy of Minta Allred

Christenson said at the end of each workshop, there is a call to action that encourages participants to use what they learned in their everyday life. She said since it can be intimidating to apply the workshops teachings, she wants to help participants on furthering the work they do in the workshops.

To get the word out, Christensen said she is currently working on creating a newsletter that would get sent to workshop attendees with an updated calendar of local events and organizations they might be interested in.

The Bellingham chapter of the movement is looking to expand their workshops to Western’s campus, Christensen said. Junior Zoe Kromer is also interested in expanding the organization to Western. Kromer has been participating in workshops for over two years and is also a facilitator. She said she plans to host a workshop on campus later this year.

“The experience [of the workshop] impacted me profoundly, and I became addicted to experiencing and facilitating this important work,” Kromer said.

Founded in Dallas, the Embody Love Movement has since flourished, becoming an international organization with facilitators located in Australia, Czech Republic, England, Canada and the United Arab of Emirates, according to the website.

With the evolving conversation of gender and what it means to be a woman becoming more widely discussed, the topic became increasingly important to Embody Love Movement, Allred said. She said the group is increasingly focused on intersectional inclusion for participants with varying gender identities.

Allred reinforced the importance of having a space to relate to others’ experiences and to come together to heal.

“[It’s important to] realize that when we overemphasize our appearance, we underemphasize everything that we are on the inside: Our talents, our gifts, our contributions,” Allred said. “And when we do this, we miss the possibility of being able to make a difference in the world in whatever way matters most to each of us.”

For more information on upcoming workshops, please visit the Embody Love Movement homepage at https://www.embodylovemovement.org/.

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