My teacher, Matthew W. Sanford at Mind Body Solutions, talks about the grace and persistence of the body - that it is faithful to move towards living for as long as it can. There are beautiful and challenging implications here related to his work - with folks healing from trauma, and those living with disabilities. There are also beautiful and challenging implications for all of us, when our bodies don't do the things we think they should.
Amber Karnes at Body Positive Yoga talks about this in her article, How to Be Grateful for Your Body (Even When It Feels Impossible): "For a very long time, I was angry at my body because it wouldn’t 'do what I said.' Before I quit dieting, back when I was pursuing intentional weight loss, my body wouldn’t shrink like other folks’ would, and it made me angry. Later, I had really bad chronic back pain for several years. And again I was angry. My body wouldn’t 'get its’ sh*t together' and it made me furious and disappointed. I hated and blamed my body for my unhappiness. The body is easy to blame. It is much easier for us to notice the negative things, the things going wrong, rather than all the things we DO have or what the body CAN do."
She goes on to talk about our brain's negativity bias, that horrible, at-one-time adaptive tendency of our brains to look for everything that's wrong, as well as some practical steps for working to recognize and balance those internal criticisms.
For me, yoga is an excellent tool for improving my mind-body relationship - in that it moves my body, keeps my mind focused on my body moving through space in this present moment, helps me realize my own strength, grace, and energy. There are benefits outside of the physical asana practices of yoga too. Sitting quietly in meditation allows me to bear witness to the thoughts and emotions that are present and maybe typically outside of my conscious awareness. When I'm aware of the ways that I judge myself, I can then pay more attention to intentionally focusing on the good - not only the amazing things that my body can do - ways I sense the world around me and take action in it, but also it's beauty and worth - just as it is. Parenting and child development is an arena where I often hear cited the requirement of 10 positive statements to outweigh the emotional impact of one negative criticism. I'm not sure of the accuracy of the math, but in principle, this holds true - we need some kindness to outweigh the negativity that is inherently present because we have human brains that are biased towards the bad. We are not bad or unloving when we have these thoughts, we simply have to honor our need for more love and appreciation. This valentines day, I hope you will take a moment to express some love to your body!
In our current culture, filled with "you're not good enough the way you are" messages, expressing love to your body might feel uncomfortable, or even wrong or scary. That's ok. If you don't know where to start, here are some suggestions:
- spend some time naked in the privacy of your own home, just practicing being comfortable with your body
- take time to take a bath, put lotion on, give yourself a facial, paint your nails, or otherwise show your body some nurturing and pampering
- pick out one thing you love about your body each day, maybe say it out loud
- go for a walk, do some yoga, or simply sit still and notice the sensations you feel in your body
- express gratitude to your body for the things it can do
- read a book or article about body positivity and notice your reactions
- cultivate your instagram/social media feed to include body positive messages, and people of all body types, especially people who look like you, celebrating their bodies
Additional body-love resources:
Health at Every Size
The Fat Therapist
Love Your Lady Landscape
The Body Positive
Yoga and Body Image Coalition
Melanie Storrusten. Licensed Clinical Social Worker. Owner of Align Wellness Solutions.