What first comes to mind when you think about your body?
For most people I’d take a guess that those thoughts are less than positive. Am I right? It’s not surprising, considering the messages that bombard us from all angles, especially at this time of year when adverts and resolutions are so often about losing weight, and getting “into shape”. Exercise programmes often include the words shred, fight, burn, or combat: suggesting that everyone should be battling and changing their bodies.
What if we changed the language about our bodies? Even, or especially, those parts of our bodies that we see as “difficult”. What if we paid attention to what our bodies do for us every day without us even noticing? How busy all our cells are, often despite a lack of rest and nourishment. What if we remembered what our bodies have done for us over the years, keeping us going through good times and bad. What if we saw those “difficult” areas as worthy of love? What if we stop battling and start with kindness and care?
“I’ve got a perfect body, though sometimes I forget. I’ve got a perfect body, ‘cause my eyelashes catch my sweat” – Regina Spektor, Folding Chair
Our bodies are not to be battled against. They are our precious homes. A fact we often only remember when health scares, injury or illness come along. But even during physically (and emotionally) difficult times, your body is busy working away in the background. Doing its best to let you know what it needs.
In my twenties I didn’t have a great relationship with my body and I treated it pretty badly for a while. But yoga has, subtly, gradually, helped me develop a positive relationship with my body. Not all the time. But mostly. I care less about how it looks and more about how it feels. And becoming a mother has been an interesting part of that journey. From pregnancy to giving birth to breastfeeding, my body has been through a lot. It has amazed me at times. I’ve felt let down by it at times. And I’ve not trusted it enough at times. But it’s achieved some pretty amazing stuff, and continues to do so.
The feelings we all have towards our bodies go deep, so making these changes is not always that easy.
Yoga can help. Yoga helps us to focus on connection, gratitude, oneness, compassion (for ourselves and others), and acceptance. With a consistent practice these positive messages change the way we think and feel. Yoga brings awareness to your connection to the earth, supports your body to be strong and supple so that you can move with ease, stills the mind, and calms the nervous system. The yoga magic kicks in and you find yourself thinking more kindly of your body.
“And I said to my body. Softly. ‘I want to be your friend’. It took a long breath. And replied, ‘I have been waiting my whole life for this’.” –
Once you start having kind thoughts towards your body, you’ll find you start making kind choices for it too. Eating nourishing food because you enjoy it and can feel the benefits (rather than because you “should”), bringing more movement into your life because it feels good (rather than scheduling exercise as if it’s a chore or a punishment), and getting out in the fresh air more regularly because you have the energy to do so.
I hope we can all bring a little bit more love into our language and thoughts about our bodies this year and beyond. Remember, you’ve got a perfect body. Even if sometimes you forget.
* Pictured: my perfectly imperfect Sphinx pose with upper back stiffness.