Are you friends with your body? Do you support your body the way you do a good friend? Would you drop everything to look after your body if it needed you? I used to be quite disgusted with my body; in particular I hated my thighs and the cellulite they carry. I was embarrassed by my breast to backside ratio and that my hips are way too curvy to be fashionable. Then something changed. Somewhere along the path from casual yoga class attendee to full-time student, yoga teacher and therapist, my relationship with my physical body was transformed.
Befriending the body is a concept that is commonly employed in traditions including Buddhism, yoga, and psychology. It is neither new nor unique to the yogic path. However, for me, yoga has been the catalyst for change in my mind-body relationship. What I have discovered is that being compassionate toward my body and maintaining a strong mind-body connection are critical to my wellness. I became aware of the negative feedback loop between my thoughts, the way I used and mistreated my body, and the way my body was showing up in the world. The more I allowed thoughts that my body was ‘bad’ or ‘ugly,’ the worse I felt about it. This, in turn, led to poor food and exercise choices resulting in my body feeling and looking unhealthy…until I started practicing yoga in earnest.
It is hard to be precise or scientific in explaining how the transformation takes place, but we don’t actually need to know what’s happening for the change in the way we perceive our bodies to take place. Important first steps in initiating this change include:
- Learning to listen to your body
- Starting to make healthy choices based on signals from your body
- Developing centering and grounding techniques such as pranayama and meditation
- (Re)-Establishing a connection with yourself and others.
As perception changes, physical changes start to take place and we notice:
- An increase in strength and stamina
- Increased range of movement
- Improved muscle tone
- Better overall health and immune function
These physical changes add to the changed perception of the body and we start to enjoy being in our bodies more, have greater self-respect, and develop a deep sense of gratitude for what our bodies are capable of. We might even take a moment in yoga mudra at the end of our practice to nurture this gratitude and thank our bodies for being able to carry us through our chosen practice in whatever way was available to us that day.
Yoga is a process…a gradual, graceful, engaging process of aligning feeling, thought, action and belief. When we trust the process, beautiful things happen.
Do you love your body? What do you think of when you hear that question?