How to Love Your Body…no matter what
When is the last time you felt frustrated with some aspect of your body? If you’re anything like me, this feeling comes and goes with regularity. I haven’t met many people who don’t harbor some negative feelings about their body. Whether you’re dealing with issues involving pain, mobility, weight, age, height, or appearance, it’s far too easy to find fault with your physical form.
As a dance teacher and life coach, I hear people degrade their physique quite often:
My thighs are too big. I’m too old to spin around. I don’t have the look. I wasn’t born graceful. I’m a lost cause.
When we allow our perceived imperfections to negatively influence how we feel about our form, we unconsciously take sides against our body. In essence, we don’t love it unconditionally; only when it’s behaving. We seldom don’t consider what we’re doing when we’re not loving and accepting our body…I’ll give a hint, it’s the opposite of love.
Last week I reached a breaking point. I woke up in the middle of the night with a scary back pain that was shooting down into both of my hips. I’d never felt anything like it before. I paid attention! The pain lingered night and day for three days. I had to cancel my weekend lessons and all my gym plans. I vowed to take it easy-nothing physical until it got better. Like I said, It scared me!
A lot of people experience pain, so what I’m describing is nothing special. But the experience brought me to a unique awareness. You see, not being able to go to the gym felt frustrating for me because I want to be strong and healthy. All of my life I’ve exercised. I’ve moved a lot – dancing, yoga, weight lifting, running, horseback riding, swimming, biking and hiking. I love being active. I want/need to take care of my body, so I can keep doing all that.
And it wasn’t just this one time. I’ve struggled with various pains: arthritis, bursitis, back ache, etc. for months. Working out seemed only to aggravate these issues. In my mind, yoga, running and weight training keeps us healthy only if we participate on a regular basis. But lately, I kept getting sidelined. This recurrent pain clearly indicates my body needs to NOT do some of these things right now.
Over the past year, I’ve stayed home from the gym more often than I like. So with this most recent shut down, I suddenly felt like my body and my mind were on opposite teams. I felt annoyed, like I was at war with my body- angry at it for not cooperating like it “should.” A compromise had to be made.
I suddenly came to the awareness that I do want what’s best for my whole self (body, mind, spirit). I want to help my body heal, and stay healthy. So I must listen to my body’s signals and find new ways to keep fit and healthy if that’s what’s needed. I realized I needed to forgive and accept my body for needing less physical activity during a time when my mind wants more. And most of all, I had to accept the reality of my body’s immortality, vulnerability and weaknesses.
I know I’ll get back to the gym in time and we’ll keep going from where we are, but more slowly, with love, respect and honor toward the backbone that has not only carried me, but let me dance through life thus far. It’s because I love my body that I want to take care of it, not the other way around. It’s the only body I’ll ever have. I can’t hate it for feeling the way it does. I can’t wish it were different. I can’t pick the parts I like and denigrate the others. Self love means taking it all as it is, not just the parts we approve of.
I realized an important lesson…when you battle yourself, you will always lose…one way or another, you just can’t win. If you want to be a warrior (in the yoga tradition) you first have to warrior on your own behalf to create an equal relationship between your body, mind, and spirit. We can’t relegate the body to the lowest rung of the ladder, just because it’s usually quiet.
Believe me; it usually has a lot to say…if we’re just willing to listen.
Self Love begins with awareness and follows with taking a stand for unconditional acceptance of yourself and others. Download your Self Empowerment Contract