Since 2006 I’ve been an advocate for eating disorder recovery and for the past three years I’ve worked professionally at treatment facilities sharing yoga, facilitating groups, and offering love. One of the groups I lead discusses body image and processes what it means to be embodied. Now, this does not mean we all sit around and talk about how we ‘love our bodies!,’ it means we talk about what it’s like to have a body and live in it without becoming mentally and physically conditional. Simply, we talk about our bodies and the things we say to and about them. We talk about what our body says to us. We notice how often our relationship with our bodies parallels our modes of thought; by talking about our relationship with our bodies, we invariably talk about our relationship with our lives.
Life Is More Than The Body
What I’ve come to witness is that when we talk about how we experience our bodies, we can begin to notice that our talk and our direct experience do not always say the same thing! We must examine our body talk and ask: ‘who’s talking?!’. For example, direct mindful breathing tends to negate our mind’s insistence that we ‘can’t’ calm down. This and other bodily truths not only exist, but can become powerful trusted allies.
Take a moment. Notice. What do you try to convince yourself is true? What belief about you life do you map on your body? What is your body actually saying?
Stop The Critique-- Listen
Sadly, for most of us, our relationship to our bodies is one-directional. Mind--->Body--->Conditional self-love. Many of us externalize our sense of self on our bodies, and, when our identity is falsely cast on our bodies, it’s hard to hear what other truths exist. Questions of ‘who am I?’ and ‘how can I give and receive love?’ become conditional statements based on predetermined externally interpreted expectations. We set requirements on the body instead of listening to it’s wisdom! Then, before too long, our body gets cast as a vehicle of ‘not right’ based on arbitrary metrics like weight, asana “achieved,” or calories consumed. Hurtful, too many of us have learned to silence our bodies in this way.
You do not need a clinical eating disorder to experience this shift in body identification or diminished body acceptance. Have one too many bad dates or performance reviews, and notice how your body somehow becomes the ‘problem.’ (Yeah… mine, too.)
In short, we are not our bodies, yet we cannot deny the importance of being embodied. Our body has a say. Our body mediates our experience, both internal and external. Next time you are bummed out, notice how you hold your beautiful body; then, physically change how you are holding yourself and notice if your mind shifts. Being embodied is NOT the problem. Being embodied is often a powerful solution! Trust your body. Change your mind.