And I said to my body. Softly. ‘I want to be your friend.’ It took a long breath. And replied, ‘I have been waiting my whole life for this.’ – Nayyirah Waheed
As I begin this, I feel it is important to give you a little background into my journey into Body Love. If you’ve taken my class, you know I’m a proud plus sized teacher. I cue my students to find the stance, hips-distance, and variations that work best for their unique bodies while letting them know that I personally prefer to go wider with everything to create space for my hips and belly.
Did I always love and honor my body?! No, I certainly did not. With societal pressures and the insistence of diet culture, I struggled to love my body for years. In college I developed an eating disorder that would take a decade to overcome.
While there were many factors to my recovery, I always highly credit Yoga for being the stepping stone to loving my Self, both inside AND out.
So whether you are a strong advocate for Body Love or struggling to find the path, here are some loving suggestions for the practice of loving your special body:
- Consider Your Body a Vessel for Your Mind, Heart, and Soul ~ I love the concept that we are not bodies with a soul, but rather your soul is housed in your body, allowing your body to simply hold safe your inner being. Take a moment and consider all of You and realize how much of You is housed inside of the body, or vessel.
- Give Gratitude For The Inside Body ~ Hold your hand to your heart and feel your heartbeat; take an inhale and feel your lungs expand; pause and think of all the inner workings of your body. Send a little thought of ‘Thanks’ to each of these elements of the body. And take notice if the mind begins to shift to a place of ease and acceptance when thinking of your “body” as including all of those soft, hardworking organs of yours.
- Focus on Your Hands During Practice ~ One of my favorite things to cue for my students is to take their gaze to their hand(s) and say “Hello Hand!”. This moment of silliness is also a moment of connection; an opportunity to slow down and focus the mind on just one element of the body. The hands lead us gracefully through so many of the poses that we flow through and taking just a moment to connect to that magic is something special. Give yourself a meditative moment to gaze at your hands, your fingertips, your fingernails. Look at all the little lines in the palm and wiggle your fingers. Connect to this beautiful element of your Self and then see if you can expand the conscious focus into your wrists, up your arms, and eventually throughout the whole outer body.
- Honor YOUR Body ~ Most yoga teachers will remind you to make adjustments as needed but occasionally it can be hard to focus on what your own body needs when cues are being given and you can view other bodies taking their shapes. PAUSE — This is that amazing space between Ego and Spirit. Ego may say to Push harder or Take the pose as you are viewing it. Spirit is more loving and will remind you to breathe into YOUR body and make that choice to do what feels right in your unique body. The more you empower yourself to choose to honor your own body, the more you will befriend that beautiful body of yours.
- Focus on Today ~ It’s so easy to get caught up comparing yourself to yourself; noticing when a pose feels tighter or less accessible than ‘last time’. It’s ALL GOOD! Today is the only day that matters. Treat each new practice as if it’s the one and only, maybe even like it’s the first time taking it, and notice how your body and mind start working in symphony rather than fighting against themselves.
- Marvel At Your Strength ~ No matter what you are doing, you are so strong and that inner strength then speaks to your body and offers to share space within and all around you. As you take any pose, any breath, repeat to yourself: I am a Pillar of Strength Inside and Out. Then watch as your mantra becomes your thoughts then your beliefs, until you know without a shred of doubt that you are Strong through and through.
There are so many ways to foster love in your body without ever focusing on appearance. In all walks of life, and especially while building deep Body Love, your best bet will always be to focus inward and find your own unique path.
Written by Tiffany Marquez. Tiffany teaches Early Bird Flow at 6am on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.