Yesterday I went to a six-hour workshop with one of my favorite yoga teachers, Kimber. It was called Love Your Body. I didn’t think I totally needed this workshop because I have a generally positive body image; self-loathing and obsessing over my weight are things from my past. But as I recognized earlier this year, I tend not to listen to my body, which can’t be healthy. So even though it meant cancelling my registration for a writing and meditation workshop at EBMC, I signed up for Kimber’s workshop, figuring my body’s needs were more urgent.
There were about a dozen women at the workshop, and just listening to them talk (often tearfully) about their bodies was a real eye-opener. Hearing their stories, wanting to send them and their bodies love and tenderness and support — it crumbled any resistance I might have had toward deepening my relationship with my own body. I wanted us all to feel loving and joyful in our bodies.
In one of our first journal exercises, Kimber asked us, “How do you feel about your body? Does it feel like your best friend, or like something else?” I wrote:
I feel distant from my body. For a long time I didn’t or wouldn’t recognize that it has any role to play in my dreams or goals — other than keeping me alive of course! — and so I ignored it. My thinking was, “My body doesn’t have much to offer me: it’s overweight, slow, out of shape, and prone to random ailments.” So I didn’t offer it much either, only caring for it at the bare minimum. My body has felt like a foreign entity I am compelled to live with.
Later, when Kimber asked, “What would you need to shift in your life, in order to create a more enduring and loving relationship with your body?” I wrote:
I’d need to be more than just an indifferent caretaker! I realize now that I’d never treat any other living thing as carelessly as I treat my body, except maybe my houseplants, and even then, that’s something I’m trying to change. I’d never adopt a cat and then continually ignore her pleas for attention, overwork her, force her into long-held unhealthy positions, tell her she’s fat and it’s her own fault, and then try to disguise my neglect by taking her to the groomer!
I knew I hadn’t been listening to my body, but when I recognized that I mistreat it in a way I’d deplore for anyone else, I felt so sorry for what I’d done. Quite frankly, I’m accustomed to saying, “Hey, friend!” even to the bugs and birds I encounter regularly, but I’d never thought of being so easy and nice with my body. The workshop was like couples therapy — for a marriage I didn’t realize I was in!
Kimber suggested we think of our bodies as our best friends, since they have been with us through thick and thin, good and bad, and will continue to do so for the rest of our lives. When I imagine my best friend Jackie, and the way I love and care about her, it really does give me a good model for loving my body. After six hours of workshop, as I walked the half-mile to where I’d parked my car, I felt a curious sense of camaraderie with my body — as if there were two of us walking uphill in the dark, instead of one.
This morning, I woke up in a delicious state of relaxation and comfort. I am really not used to experiencing such feelings, even on vacation! And I’m sure it’s because I spent yesterday really communicating with my body, instead of pretending it’s unimportant and pushing it to do my bidding. I don’t want to return to my usual tenseness and abuse! So I’m continuing to treat my body as a life partner, showing her the same consideration I’d show a dear, loyal, enjoyable friend. I’m sure the bad habits will need lots of time to break, but in the meantime, I can try to stay mindful, and remember to talk to my body just the way I would talk to Jackie.
Already, before lunchtime, I’ve found many little ways to be sweet toward my body:
- I snuggled in bed with Erik instead of jumping up and starting the day. (It was 7:30. Definitely not “too late” for snuggling.) My body loved this — and so did Erik!
- I said “hello, darling,” and smiled, when I saw myself in the mirror.
- I took a shower, put on the new bra that I am in love with, and wore pink and purple (colors!!) instead of drab dark clothes, even though I am not going anywhere today.
- I wore looser jeans. I have jeans that look better on me, but they squeeze my waist like a sausage casing, and I am tired of feeling like a sausage.
- I fed my body with buckwheat pancakes and eggs.
- I drank enough water.
- I raised all the blinds so I could enjoy the sunlight.
- I kept to my work breaks — and when I took things to the basement during one break, remembered that I always freeze down there, and put on a scarf and jacket before I went! When I got down to the chilly basement, I was very grateful!
These aren’t huge things, but I’ve had trouble with them all in the past: I’ve worn uncomfortable clothes, saved “nice” clothes for going out, gotten lazy about preparing good food, forgotten to hydrate myself, and so forth. But today, thinking of my body as a friend, it was easier to remember her needs and wishes! And my body is responding with gratitude.
If this sounds like something you and your body could use, check out Kimber’s blog, Finding Fullness. She has written a book about her own experience learning to love her body (she’s looking for a publisher), and is now working on a second book that will be more of a how-to manual for the same. Her Love Your Body posts have lots more great advice and exercises for loving that beautiful, hardworking, delicious body of yours! And in the future, she plans to take her Love Your Body workshop to other cities, so you might just get her in a town near you. 🙂
Lisa, what a truly wonderful post! I think we all — especially females — have a less than loving relationship with our physical selves. We should be so grateful for this amazing vehicle that enables us to navigate the world. Instead we mostly take it for granted (at best). At worse, we abuse it unforgivingly. Lots to ponder here. Thanks!
Thank you, Sherry! I’m so glad it’s given you food for thought. I realized during the workshop that I think a lot of women have problematic relationships with their bodies and themselves, because for a lot of us this all comes up during puberty. Our bodies change from girl bodies that many of us don’t think about, to “womanly” bodies that many of us have mixed or totally negative feelings about. At the same time, we encounter new social situations and get treated differently than we were when we were kids. I suspect that’s why our bodies are so tied up in confidence and self-image problems… because they really are intimately connected with that big early transition!
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