Growing up, I was never the most graceful one. I was the one (and still am a little) to trip over my feet, fall over, or drop things. I never enjoyed dancing growing up as a kid, through high school, or even in college (unless shots were involved), and I stuck to running as a sport because it didn't require much coordination.
I stuck to what I was good at - school and living in my head. I was really quite good at analyzing - math, numbers, and overanalyzing every decision I made. I certainly didn't trust my body to tell me how to move, eat, or what to do with my life. My head needed to make everything seem rational and plan things out days or years in advance.
So, I did. I planned and organized, and when things didn't go to plan - like switching schools or majors - then anxiety set in. When anxiety set in, I blamed my BODY. If things didn't go to plan, something must be wrong with me, so maybe I'm not thin enough, strong enough, or pretty enough. It certainly was easier to place blame on my body rather than doubting myself and my self-worth as a person.
Being in college surrounded by peers obsessed with their bodies and magazines showing us exactly how to lose weight, what workouts to do, and images of the "ideal" body didn't help in those moments. Yet, deep down, I always knew my body wasn't to blame.
Even now, I can realize that I wanted to trust my body - my intuition - in those moments. I would calm myself down by running - moving my body and flowing away from the overanalysis. Those moments of living fully in my body were brief but incredibly therapeutic.
While I gave up trying to lose weight and embraced intuitive eating years ago, it took me a while to connect that to my body image. I wasn't actively controlling my food anymore, but I also wasn't exactly happy with my body. I thought it could be better...then, my life would be better too.
What is "Loving your Body?"
I saw articles about "how to love your body" telling me to look at the parts of my body that I loved, or say affirmations to heal my body image. That never really stuck because I never bought into it. Trying to trick myself into liking my body would never work as well as fully connecting with it.
Running and yoga have been my loves for many years now, but I've only just realized their power to heal body image in the last few years. At first, they were my key to a slender body with many promises of being an lean, mean, flexible, running-machine. There were training plans, races, and "recovery" yoga days.
After burning out with running, I took a big step back. I took quite a few months off of any formal exercise and just walked when I wanted to. Then, I craved movement and stepped into intuitive movement - moving my body when I wanted and how I wanted. I found movement that gave me joy...and allowed me to CONNECT with my body.
Recently, I found myself shaking my hips in a sports bra and yoga pants to Beyonce in a room full of others...and seriously loving it. My favorite weekend yoga class - a fusion of yoga and tribal dance - is an hour of hip shaking, spirals, and sweat. (This yoga class deserves a whole post to itself - coming soon!)
At first, I totally felt like my awkward middle-school self trying to dance. It was only when I let my body take over that it felt amazing. I wasn't comparing my body, and I even grooved in just my sports bra without stressing about what my stomach looked like. All I was doing was feeling into my body, moving with passion, joy, and serious love for my body.
This is full presence IN my body.
Being IN my body and appreciating it is what healed my body image.
It's a total gift to connect with my body - every inch of it - and let it DANCE, move, flow, run, walk.
When I realized that, I saw that presence wherever I looked...
- In my dog who sprints laps around our backyard or prances around like a queen inside (she is the queen of the house).
- In a 3-year-old I watch sometimes who dances around her living room without any music - just to her own beat
- In myself when moving or right now, when I feel an expansiveness in my body from expressing myself.
While running PR races or doing handstands would be cool, I don't need to be striving towards something to feel good in my body. I can say with full confidence that I feel more comfortable in my body now than ever before, and I didn't have to lose weight, run fast, or get abs to get that way. All I had to do was to surrender to the presence of this moment and live in my body.
I can take this connection with my body throughout my day. I notice myself tensing up when something doesn't feel right or I'm stressed about a situation. Simply by relaxing into it and connecting into my gut or heart, my body is leading the way. It tells me how to move, what it wants to eat, when it wants to sleep.