MIRKA KNASTER
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MIRKA KNASTER

Writer/Editor

Mirka Knaster’s life-long experience of living, traveling, and conducting research in different parts of the world has contributed to her cross-cultural perspective on how people view, take care of, and heal their bodies. A former licensed massage therapist and instructor who trained in diverse body methods and disciplines, she has been involved in the alternative health field for more than thirty years.

As a contributing editor of East/West (now Natural Health) and Massage Therapy Journal, she interviewed many of the field’s luminaries and reported on the latest trends. Her writing on health and other subjects has appeared in a wide variety of publications, including The Washington Post, Ladies’ Home Journal, Women’s Health Care: A Guide to Alternatives, Encyclopedia of Complementary Health Practice, and Remarkable Men and Women: Interviews with Leading Thinkers on Health, Medicine, Ecology, Culture, Society, and Spirit. She was a consultant, writer, and on-screen instructor for the best-selling video “Massage for Health,” hosted by Shari Belafonte.

Prior to her work in holistic health, Mirka was a Ford Foundation Fellow at Stanford University’s Center for Latin American Studies and taught English in Colombia. She did research and published academically in the field of women’s studies. Mirka also holds a Ph.D. in Asian and Comparative Studies and has published in the field of spirituality and religion. Her “Sacred Flesh” columns on the body and spirituality are available on the nationally acclaimed, award-winning website beliefnet.com/.

Mirka's latest book, Living This Life Fully: Stories and Teachings of Munindra, was recently published by Shambhala. Through poignant, humorous, down-to-earth, and inspiring stories from people around the world who knew Munindra and through his direct words, the book illustrates 16 qualities that characterize a great human being, no matter what spiritual tradition s/he follows.


book

Excerpt: How to Get the Most out of Discovering the Body's Wisdom

Discovering the Body’s Wisdom is divided into three parts:

Part I discusses causes of body difficulties and what advantages you can derive from working with your body. It also introduces you to the principles that underlie this book: body alienation, or how we lost connection with the body; befriending the body; the miracle of the body; and body wisdom.

If your body sometimes feels like a stranger or enemy to you, Part I offers you the opportunity to investigate where your uncomfortable, even antagonistic relationship comes from, how you can move instead toward friendship with your body, and what that friendship has to offer you. I know very few people who are perfectly at ease in and satisfied with their bodies. However, if you’re one of them and want to skip Part I, go ahead.

Part II describes ways of choosing and interacting with a practitioner as well as deciding on which bodyway approach to work with. It leads you through a process of both evaluating the practitioner and assessing your own attitudes and preferences. I include such issues as ethics, curing and healing, treatment and education, goal and process orientations, and short- and long-term benefits. I also cover scope of practice, “hurts good” versus “hurts bad,” mixing and matching, and more. A chapter on psychological dimensions will help you understand why bodyways affect more than your physical structure and presents the practice of awareness as a useful prelude to trying any bodyway.

If you’ve had little or no experience in working with body practices and practitioners, Part II will guide you step by step in making choices about them. If you’re already familiar with the bodyways field, Part II can help you better understand some of the experiences you’ve had and suggest how to avoid the ineffective or harmful ones. It can also help you understand why you gravitate toward certain body disciplines and away from others. You may be following a habitual pattern, and it might be fruitful to try a different approach.

Part III serves as a guide to the bodyways field itself. Each section examines the foundation of a whole group of practices and how they approach the body. The explanation will enable you to understand how so many differently named disciplines can be both similar and distinct. The description of the bodyway includes its aim, technique(s) used, benefits, a section called “Resources” for more information, and in some cases, a section called “Experience,” which gives you a taste of the practice. Each Experience allows you to explore some aspect of bodyways with questions and/ or with physical and visual experiments.

 

Reviews of Discovering the Body's Wisdom, by Mirka Knaster (Bantam)

Library Journal Review
"This is one of the most complete books available on bodywork. . . . More than 75 different types of therapies are discussed, ranging from the different kinds of massage therapy to those with a more philosophical bent, like postural integration or t'ai chi chuan. Readers are also told how to "befriend" their own body and how to choose and work with a bodyworks practitioner, and they can dip into the book to study just one particular therapy. . . . This book will appeal to both the practitioner and the consumer and is recommended for medical and public libraries."

Amazon.com Review
"There are so many different kinds of bodywork available these days, many people find it hard to choose. Massage therapist and health writer Mirka Knaster's comprehensive book is a good place to start. She covers just about everything in both the Eastern and Western traditions . . . .

It would be hard to overstate how much sheer information is supplied in this book. Not only does Knaster describe each technique and explain what it's supposed to do for you, she gives its history and a brief biography of the inventors, along with addresses and phone numbers for obtaining more information. A chapter on working with a given practitioner helps answer the multitude of questions readers are likely to have: How do you know if he or she is properly trained? How should you feel after a session? What do you do if your relationship with the practitioner seems too intimate or even improper? . . . [I]t's a fascinating book, and a great reference to keep around."


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