It’s not about working things out, it’s the work to feel better INSIDE and OUT.
I’ve spent years obsessing about the health of my body. With diligence and vigor, I was conscientious of my calorie consumption and strived to stay updated on the ever-changing world of nutrition - gluten-free, vegan, plant paradox, whole 30, paleo, keto, intermittent fasting…when did eating get so complicated?! Enthusiastically, I used to scour the workout routines from beautiful people on tv and the heed the advice of fitness experts on youtube. I had also come to equate high self-esteem to physical performance. I mean, who am I to argue that someone in their 40’s running multiple marathons a year isn’t healthy? Or how about people that can boast less than 10% body fat? These metrics and accomplishments were my standards for people who were “taking care” of themselves.
After moving back home to the Bay Area one of my first yoga teachers, Mary Lynn Fitton, would start class by saying; “Welcome to your body, your home for this lifetime.” I always loved hearing this affirmation, mostly because it took the performance element out of the yoga practice. I had not grown up athletic by any means and to be honest, I’m 37 and still learning how to catch a ball. This invitation to feel welcomed in my own physical form initiated a shift away from seeking validation of my body and toward developing a better relationship to how I felt in my body. This was incredibly meaningful after having spent over a decade battling the psychological effects of anorexia. Up until that point I could only conceptualize movement in terms of exercise; whether it was a run/hike/walk or yoga/pilates/bootcamp class, these endeavors were to burn calories and build muscle tone. I didn’t treat my body as something integral to my way of being in the world but more as a separate thing that I would be forever augmenting to look and perform better.
Now moving, breathing and being in my body is how I connect to my sense of self. While some of my relationship and curiosity about movement is filtered through the lens of psychology and neuroscience (more on that in another blog about interoception), I have something even juicier than science to guide me. I feel it for myself. There is nothing I relish more than feeling present and alive in my body. Now I run, hike, bike, kick box, weight train, jump around, tumble, carry, push, pull, dance, yoga, TRX, train high intensity interval training (HIIT), breathe deeply, and self-massage as ways to celebrate a myriad of emotions. These forms of physicality help me trust my lived experience. This sense of embodiment means I no longer run 6 miles because it burns the most calories but because I absolutely love the way I feel when I move through time and space that way and it’s just one of the many ways I celebrate that I have a body I enjoy spending time in.
When your body feels like home it cultivates emotional resilience. I love this term. For me, this is the self-assurance and tenacity that to know that whatever life throws your way, you have a grounded sense of self to navigate you through the dark spaces. SHIT IS GOING TO HAPPEN. Someone you love will disappoint you. There’s going to be a goal you set out with good intentions to achieve and it just may not come to fruition. The future you are working tirelessly to create will hit some detours. Why not spend some time developing a relationship to your body that isn’t about counting calories, being fixated on the size you used to or want to be, or running yourself ragged by training tirelessly, and truly spend some time feeling safe and nurtured in what is ultimately, your home for this lifetime?
Up next: Why practicing yoga makes me feel at peace with the world and punching stuff makes me feel like I can take on the world.