How does one “connect with his/her body”?
I talk all the time in this blog space about connecting with and listening to your own body rather than listening to all the cultural rules, diets, and programs geared toward changing your body. But how do you do that? And what if you don’t like your body or certain parts of your body… why would you want to connect with something you don’t even like? Shouldn’t you change your body into what you do like so you want to connect with it?
First off, no. You don’t need to change your body before you learn to connect with it or even learn to love it. In fact, it’s the other way around. Learn to connect with and love your body as it is right now and watch change happen.
Second, I’ve learned in recovery that journeys happen one step at a time. Part of my anorexia disease came with an element of body dysmorphia, which means what I physically saw in the mirror wasn’t even close to the reality of what my body actually looked like. I saw flaws in my body that weren’t even there. So not only was I disconnected from my body and its cues, I was also disconnected from reality. Learning how to reconnect with reality and my body took slow, careful baby steps starting with the most fundamental body function I have:
And that, my friend, is where we can all start learning how to connect with our bodies. We rarely notice the one thing that keeps us alive… what it feels like to breathe; how our body moves when we breathe in and how it moves when we exhale; how the new air going in and down feels in our belly and nose, how the muscles in our shoulders, neck, and spine relax as we cleanse through a breath out. Connecting with our breath connects us with being alive inside our bodies.
We ask a lot of ourselves, don’t we? We expect much from our minds and bodies in the mess and stress of living. Not only do we ask our bodies and minds to stay tough and strong and capable through the expectations of daily living, but we require that we look good and be healthy doing it. So we run ourselves through the ringer of diet and nutrition and exercise trends, demanding cooperation and results from our bodies. When the diets don’t work or we’re too tired for the exercise regimens, we blast our minds with negative self-talk and self-blame.
I am suggesting we let go of all the requirements and learn to connect with what our bodies are saying rather than telling our bodies what to do and abusing ourselves when our bodies don’t listen to us. The best place to start listening is in the quietness and simpleness of breathing.
Confession: In preparation to write this post today, I did the breathing practice that I am going to share with you in just a minute. As I laid on my yoga mat with my hands resting with love on my belly, the gentle rhythm of my breath made me emotional. I began to cry as my body softened. I didn’t realized how disconnected with myself and my emotions I have been these past weeks. While my recovery is strong, life was both stressful and tragic in August. I rode the waves of emotion as they came through the month, but I hadn’t taken the time to truly connect with myself–mind, body, and heart–to understand my body was both taking the brunt of my feelings and still taking care of me. My neck, shoulders, arms, and back were grateful for the breathing cleanse as they were finally able to relax with every exhale; my brain was able to rest with its only focus on my most fundamental need… breath.
The video below is all about breathing and connection–no scary yoga shapes. Keep an open mind and try. Yes, this is a yoga instructor but don’t be intimidated! Yoga isn’t always (or rarely is it) about twisting your body into inhumane shapes. The Yoga with Adriene mission and motto is “find what feels good” and she caters to beginners.
Two things to think about:
1) There are no rules about how this is supposed to look or work. I have a cranky knee, so even just sitting on my knees isn’t available to me, but I modify movement as needed and will even come to a simple seated position. Be kind to yourself and do the same for your body if you need to.
2) Body connection takes practice! Breathing takes practice. Have grace for you if you find yourself distracted or frustrated. Baby steps, remember?
3) I would love to hear about your experience if you try this! What did you notice about yourself and your body as you connected with your breath? Leave your thoughts in the comments.
Much love to you all!