Every so often, I hear someone say: "Love your body", and I think: "Huh?" Or, "That sounds like flowery bullsh**." Usually, these tagline statements are vacant for me. Loving your body is a practice not a proclamation.
And, that's why it is okay to not always know how to respond when you are invited to 'love' your body. Because what heck does that mean anyway?
In truth, too many of us have contested relationships with our bodies. As a recovered eating disorder sufferer, I know I do. It is precisely in the space of contention that we must practice. So, fine-- you don't 'love' your body? No problem.
There is still nothing wrong with YOU. Not. A. Thing. This is yoga. Can you practice on the days when the union is hard to find? Can you breathe into that?
I've learned that we deserve our own care. On our mat, we owe it to our sweet hearts to exercise conscious respect and compassion for the things we experience physically. So how do you make friends with your body?
Start by constantly and consistently making choices that support your wellbeing. Let this be a non-negotiable. And, notice if these choices sound like: 'I need to lose ____ to be ____'. If these are your choices, please choose again! Choices based on a model of conditional acceptance are maladaptive and, ultimately, toxic. You (and your body) deserve love not games.
Acceptance grows from honesty and compassion. Remember though, it's okay to not always 'love' your body. As you practice, you just might notice things change...
Each of our bodies has an imprint unique to its life experience. Every action, every impulse, every thought we have manifests on our form. Sometimes we can see this. Sometimes we can feel this. And, as our yoga practice deepens, we learn to trust that this is true: What we do with our bodies affects our minds; and, what we do with our minds affects our bodies.
Things can and do change! You do not have to simply believe me, take it to the mat. Use the direct experience of your practice to reflect upon change and self-care. Remember, the body speaks an important language, because it speaks as a physical manifestation of the choices you've been living.
You might not always love what your body says, but you should listen. Then, you can learn to compassionately heed what your body has to share with you.
You Are NOT Your Body
Remember too, you are bigger than your body. While respect of the body is vital, observing physical change invites us to practice non-attachment to our sweet form. In reality, we change all the time. Our bodies grow, tone, soar, giggle, embrace, age, and release. And, they should.
I remember I used to avoid my mat at times, because I wanted to avoid my body. Either I was mistreating it or I did not want to encounter it because I believed it was stagnant. As I learned to practice through this though, I learned that not only could I stay with my body, but also I learned that my body was not 'who' I was.
My body is an indicator of how I am doing. Nothing more, nothing less.~Jamie Silverstein
Yes, I have a body but I do not begin and end with my body. The more I've sat in this realization of transience, the more I’ve been able to show up with an open head and heart.
The best way to embrace the body is to be in the body. You are not a battlefield. Feel your feelings. Open your heart. Love. Cry. Try not to go numb (too often).
Brene Brown’s research demonstrates how we cannot be selectively numb with our emotions; every time we run away from necessary emotional pain, we also lose the chance of future sweetness. Strength is not just physical prowess; strength is also being strong enough to stay and breathe though a tenderhearted (or gut-wrenching) trial.
Strength says: I'm right here and I'm not fighting. Ironically, Love says the same thing. Ultimately, this is how we can learn to love our bodies. We learn to love our bodies by staying in them.
Photo credit: Lindsay France