Embodied Leadership Beyond the Mat: Integrating the Body with Leadership Practice



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Embodiment is not a commonly studied topic in the communication discipline as most scholarship has rather focused on discursivity. Despite multiple calls to take up this area of research, still very little exists; even studies of materialism often overlook the body. This project is premised on the belief that all communicative processes are embodied and particularly focuses on the practice and process of leadership. With the goal of furthering conceptualizations of a embodied leadership, this project uses the inherently embodied practice of modern postural yoga as its site for study. Operating from an interpretive paradigm, this project seeks to answer two research questions: (a) How is leadership practiced in yoga studios, investigated through complete participant observation, and (b) How does the embodied practice of modern postural yoga transfer to leadership experiences outside of the yogic practice, investigated through semi-structured interviews with yoga practitioners who hold leadership positions in professional contexts. Thematic analyses of each data set paint a picture of yoga instructors and interview participants as learning leaders who are dedicated to self-empowerment and the empowerment of their followers. Through the comparison of data sets and drawing from current communication literature, five key discussion points were drawn from this study. This study furthers conceptualizations of embodied leadership as a learning process that involves empowerment of the self and others as the two parties co-create value and meaning in their practices, offering powerful insights into future theory and practice.