Oh, my body, my body, my sweet girl. The relationship between my body and me has been a rocky one almost all of my life.
I remember in college hearing my dance teacher say, “Your body is your temple, treat it that way.” I didn’t get it. I mean, I understood intellectually what she was saying, but I didn’t understand it viscerally or emotionally because I didn’t own “a temple” and wouldn’t know what to do with one if I did.
A temple? It’s too austere, non-breathing, immobile. How can you feel for a temple? How can you nurture a temple? How can a temple breathe and move and most importantly, dance? What I needed was an analogy that I could be moved by.
When I began sharing with woman the way I had learned how to move naturally and fluidly within the S shape of my body, I found myself in the teaching seat in need of an analogy more authentic to the feminine. ”Your body is your greatest asset,” I whispered to a group of women slowly undulating their spines in a circular Cat-Cow Roll. ”She’s ‘your girl,’ your confidante, your best friend, your child, your baby, your lover, your nurturer.”
That she is. Our bodies do things for us that we don’t even think about or necessarily appreciate. She houses you, gives you a home on this planet, tastes your food, cries your tears, breathes for you, pumps your blood, hears the good and bad news, smiles for you, communicates for you — she’s vulnerable, your body. She only wants to make you happy. She only wants to keep you alive. She will do anything you tell her to do. She only wants to make you love her. She only wants to make you proud of her.
And what do you do for her in return? I know one thing we do too often — we criticize and judge her. We stare at her in the mirror after a shower and think how big our bellies are getting, or how ugly our cellulite is, or how giggly our butts have gotten.
Have you ever done this one: Someone pays your body a compliment like, “You’ve got great legs,” and you say, “Oh, no, they’re too thick,” instead of a simple “thank you” with a proud touch to those legs?
One day, in the midst of cutting down “my girl” and judging and criticizing her ruthlessly in a mirror, a shocking thought made its way into my mind – I’m a mother of two beautiful, smart as all get out kids, one boy and one girl. Would I say these things to my children? Especially my daughter. Would I look her up and down and call her “fat” or say, “Are those stretch marks???” Or how about, “Is that cellulite on your thighs? And are you putting on weight?” It would be abusive! Verbal body abuse. It was a sobering thought.
One person who helped me see my body truthfully was my hub-man, Richard. I noticed that he actually watches me…ALL THE TIME… I’ll be speaking to someone at a party, and his eyes will follow my arms and hands as I gesture describing some story. Or there I am shoving some frozen pizza in the oven and there he is sizing me up from across the room like a hungry wolf. And it ain’t the pizza he’s eyeing. It’s me! Then I began to notice men all over the place, out on the street, in the shopping mall, watching women with pure appreciation – and I mean ALL women. Men would watch just women of all sizes, shapes and ages, and there was something of awe in their expressions. And it dawned on me that if there were such a thing as “Man Glasses”, if women could don a pair of spectacles that helped us see ourselves with a “masculine eye,” well, baby, that would be something.
When I watch my students’ bodies simply, breathtakingly emerge into the great female creature that they were meant to be…I am awestruck. Their bodies are so beautiful. Each body seems to breathe on her own, seems to feel on her own, seems to have her own personality. I see my students’ bodies as their gifted children. I have become fiercely protective of their bodies; I have become their advocate. I am their mirror. And they are mine. Our entire relationship with our bodies has changed. Without even trying, we’ve stopped thinking bad things about her and we’ve become an empowered reflection of one another. We see the vulnerability in each other, and we’ve grown protective of each other. We see each other as sisters, empaths, nurturers, lovers and compassionates, instead of all that silliness women have bought into in the past. You know, all that women hating women, pitting each other against one another as frenemies, competitors, threats and saboteurs mumbo jumbo that is oh so 1980. When a woman’s body moves naturally, she defines beauty and all judgment recedes. That’s what we’ve discovered. Our bodies are walking miracles. Wild works of art of major proportion. Hallelujah!
Featured image by Astrid Westvang on Flickr