Every Body Is Worthy

In one of my online groups, a woman told a story about working on the leg press at her gym and caught some teens filming her and laughing.  She felt such shame, she wasn’t able to confront them nor report them to management.  

A couple years ago, a playboy model took a snickering selfie in the locker room of her gym with a larger older body in the background and the caption, “If I can’t unsee this then you can’t either.” 

A few years ago, a  woman who had been coming to my fitness (not yoga) classes for years was talking about a family member who was large and seemed to have a difficult time moving.  She then said to me, “At least you’re not so big that you can’t move.” 

A trans friend was told they were not welcome in a gym – that their body in transition made others uncomfortable. 

Although I rarely talk about it, it’s not a secret that I live in a large body.  I have always lived in a large body. I will likely always live in a large body.

Let me tell you, it has not always been easy to live in a large body.  But, I don’t want to make this about me and my experiences. I want this to be about the right for every BODY to simply exist in public spaces without being harrassed, shamed or unwelcomed.  

Large

Short

Disabled

Trans

Male

Female

Bodies of Color

I could go on.  I am sure that there are more types of bodies that have been shamed I could add to the list.  If you live in a body that differs from our current cultural expectations, then you have likely experienced body shaming of one kind or another.  

I am thankful that I have not experienced a deeply shameful event like I hear about from so many other larger bodied people.  But saying I’m thankful I have not been deeply shamed in public for my body is like saying I’m thankful I haven’t been sexually assaulted.  NOT being harmed in the way so many people are is not something to be grateful for. It’s something that should be the norm.  

Here’s the thing that we all need to understand, without any qualification:

ALL BODIES ARE WORTHY.  

A smaller body is no more worthy than a larger body.  A blond body is no more worthy than a redhead. A male body is no more worthy than a female body.  A muscular body is no more worthy than a fat body. And vice versa. I know plenty of people who have been shamed for being too thin, with similar comments.  

Every BODY is worthy 

Of respect

Love

Pleasure  

Medical Care  

Rest  

Movement  

Nourishment  

Food  

Yoga  

Exercise  

Care  

Joy  

Dignity  

Every Body  

As it is now.  At this moment.  At every and any moment.  

And if every body is worthy, that means YOUR body is worthy.  Now. Without inches lost. Without being taller or blonder. Without going on keto or intermittent fasting or any other bullshit and dangerous diet.  Your body is worthy with or without exercise. Your body is worthy. Period. No qualifications necessary.  

Unfortunately, much of our culture seems to take issue with the idea of body positivity, which means that some people have designated themselves the body police and use whatever platform available to publicly shame strangers and celebrities alike.  

The body positivity movement simply says every body has the right to live without shame, harassment and hate.  Every body has the right to love themselves as they are.  

I know I cannot control other people, only myself.  I have made a commitment to not comment on other people’s bodies.  That doesn’t mean I’ll never tell people they look nice or let my friend know she’s rocking her new dress.  I mean, I will not comment on people’s weight, shape or size.  

I beg of you – when you see a different body, refrain from commenting on that body.  Thoughts or opinions about that body may bubble up – examine them. Where did those thoughts come from?  Are they based in fact? Do they contain any cultural bias? Our job is to examine our own biases of people and not put the burden of our issues on them.  It’s my thought that’s bothering me. Why do I need to make it someone else’s problem?    

Despite our social media obsession, not every thought needs to be shared.  

When negative thoughts arise about a body, either your own or another’s- remember this one thing: 

ALL BODIES ARE WORTHY.

Even mine.  Even yours. His.  Hers. Theirs.  

EVERY *BODY* IS WORTHY.

Making Space

It’s December 30.  My house is a disaster.  I have three baskets of laundry waiting to be folded.  It’s 11 am. I’m in my jammies and I just ate a cookie for my morning snack.  I’m in the time warp of Winter Holidays. You know the one. It doesn’t matter what you celebrate because as I talk with friends Jewish, Muslim and Christian, it’s all the same from roughly December 23-January 1.  

One of my piles. There are several around the house.

There is a hint of “shoulds” as you look at your kitchen sink, but you know somehow the dishes will take care of themselves and children will get fed.  There are intentions of organizing, cleaning, baking or just simply showering and getting dressed before noon. Instead, you’ve spent the morning scrolling Facebook and playing a game with your kids or finishing up a wonderful book as you pour your second cup of coffee.  Expectations are wonderfully low. Kids don’t really have to bathe or get up in the morning for school. Someone in the house may need to work, but you’re not quite sure what time and trust that they’ll figure it out on their own.  

Gifts are randomly piled in corners waiting to be put away.  But I haven’t gotten around to it because I haven’t cleared out the old stuff to make room for the new.  

As I linger in my comfy bear jammies, I see I’m no different than my overstuffed closet.  I need to make room for the new. As we say farewell to 2019, take a few moments in your jammies and your chaotic house to clear some space.  Look back on what this last year brought you and write down these 4 questions.  

What are you most grateful for in 2019?  

What has been dragging you down?

What is no longer serving you?

How will you gently let it go?  

As you ask yourself these questions, notice the way your body responds to each one.  Our bodies know before our brains. What sensations come up? Heat? Cold? Rapid heart?  Quicker breath? Tingling or itching somewhere? What is your body asking you to release and surrender to the past?  

Know that you don’t need to have the most eloquent or meaningful answer to the question.  Maybe you just want to let go of hitting the snooze button every morning. Maybe you want to let go of anger you’ve been holding on to for way too long.  There are no wrong answers.  

Ritualize it.  A small slip of paper with a few words and a match will do.  Or, write it with chalk on a rock and throw it into the nearest body of water you can find: a creek, a pond or a bucket.  If you live near a river, lake or ocean, go for it. But there is no need to make this complicated or you simply won’t do it.  Heck, a scrap of paper and a trash can work just fine.  

I know my house will eventually get cleaned up.  Laundry will be folded. Gifts will be put away. Dishes will make their way to the dishwasher.  I will shower before noon again soon enough. And as I linger in my comfy jammies, I take a few moments to reflect on the last year and clear out the cobwebs to welcome the new.  

In what ways will you make space for the new?  

You Can

I signed up for an online writing course in February. It was fun and challenging and it awakened lost possibilities. As part of the course, it was recommended I pick up The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron.

This book is changing my life in ways I never expected.

The book is a 12 week class with exercises and practices to tap into your creativity. Part of the practice is what she calls Morning Pages. Every morning, write three pages of stream of consciousness writing. Every morning. She advises not reading these pages. Simply write them. Even if all you are writing is “I don’t know what to write” for three pages.

When I read this, I thought – yeah, that’s not gonna happen – I have three kids to get fed and dressed and out the door. I’m not giving up sleep. But, I’ll give it my best go.

Before I knew it, I had filled up a notebook. When I went to buy a new one, this jumped out at me from the shelf at the 99cent store.

Stickers added by my kids.

When I read it, I just thought: no I can’t. I have three kids and a mortgage. I cannot simply do whatever I want. It’s a lovely thought and a good sturdy notebook, but no, I can’t do whatever I want.

I’ve filled more pages every day. I’ve filled it with the mundane thoughts of my daily life. I’ve filled it with my dreams.

I have faithfully written three pages every day for 6 weeks now. Most days it happens first thing in the morning, whether I wake before the kids or not. I pour my first cup and coffee and get to writing at the kitchen table if my kids are still in bed. I go to another room if they are awake.

A couple weeks ago, I went to meet with a new studio owner nearby. She loved what I had to offer and hired me on the spot. I’m planning my first workshop there for June. She asked me what else I envisioned for my work. I told her about my vision for a retreat in the Dominican Republic.

“What’s holding you back?” she asked.

“Fear.” What if no one wants to sign up or invest that kind of money to spend a week with me on retreat? What if I’m not good enough? What if I lose money? What if I spend all this time and energy planning it and it’s a total failure? The what if gremlins were so loud, I couldn’t hear anything else.

“But, what is stopping you?” she asked again.

“Me.”

I really can do whatever I want.

I decided I’m doing it. I’m so thrilled and excited to be offering this retreat. I was in the Dominican Republic this last January and fell in love with the people and place. Sometimes I go on vacation and think, well that was lovely. Other times, I go to a new place and all I can think of is how to get back and bring people I care about. Dominican Republic quickly became that place.

Here’s the thing: this is not just true for me. It is true for you too.

You really can do whatever you want.

Maybe you want to come on retreat with me to the Dominican Republic? (Yes, that is a shameless pitch.) Maybe you want to travel through Europe, Iceland or Asia. Maybe travel is not on your agenda but your lifelong dream has been to be a dancer, a singer, a circus acrobat.

What dreams and ideas come to mind that you immediately poo-poo. Before the thought can even make it to your pen or your lips, you are already dismissing it.

You know the one. It’s dangerous. It’s a little scary.

Write it down. Say it outloud. Whisper it at first if you need to like it’s a big secret. Then, let it get louder. And louder. Shout that dream when you are home alone. Then maybe when your partner or kids are home. Build up. Dream it. There’s no harm in dreaming. Let yourself indulge in the dream.

Then, ask yourself – what’s keeping you from it? What is holding you back?

I suspect it will be fear, yourself and the what if gremlins.

Talk to the gremlins and ask them…

What if I pursued my biggest, craziest dream? What if I took a middle aged ballet class? I picked up the ukulele? What if I traveled the world for fun?

What if I simply wrote my own permission slip?

Who else is going to give you permission to live your life other than you?

Tips and Practices For Poor Air Quality

Right now, the air quality in the Bay Area is terrible.  If you are experiencing respiratory distress, please contact your health care provider.  If you’re like me, a few of these small changes and practices can make a world of difference.

At home:

  • Increase the moisture in your home using humidifiers
  • Take a steam bath or steam shower
  • Use a saline nasal spray to moisturize the sinuses and nasal passages

Breathing:

  • Breath in and out your nose.  This is the body’s best filtering system.  Even when you smell smoke in the air, you might think that breathing through the mouth is a better option.  The cilia in your nose help to filter the air.  When you breath through the mouth, you bypass this system.  Breathing through the nose helps heat and moisturize the air for your body.
  • Break up the gunk in your lungs.  See video below.
  • After the gunk is loosened in your lungs, try to expel it using Lion’s Breath and coughing.

I hope these things are helpful to you.  I’m sending all my love and prayers to those suffering from the fires in California.  Stay safe and stay healthy.

 

Fear

Yesterday, we had a Halloween Themed class focused on fear.  Halloween is the time of year we embrace what is scary, even seek it out in horror movies and spooky decorations.  We explored what the body does when faced with fear, and what systems are involved.  Looking for ideas and inspiration, I poked around various yoga blogs and meditations on fear.  I was struck by the number of articles that encouraged people to either deny or move past their fear in some way.  Most often spoken about was “overcoming fear.”  It felt like denial of fear was missing the mark.

Fear serves a very necessary purpose for the brain and body.  Fear alerts us to a potential danger.  ReEmbody Method Creator, Kevin Moore, said in a recent workshop, “Our brain’s first priority is always safety.” Gavin DeBecker even wrote an entire book entitled, “The Gift of Fear” which discusses how our sense of fear can save our lives in many situations.

When we encounter what our brain perceives as a potential danger or threat, the sympathetic nervous system involuntarily kicks into gear — we begin to sweat, our heart and respiratory rate increases, blood and oxygen is sent to our muscles, and our body is filled with adrenaline to be ready for action: fight, flight or freeze.  On many of these occasions, we must react in order to keep ourselves safe.  We run away.  We duck.  We hit back.  Fractions of a second isn’t time to process when a car is about to hit you.  Reaction is necessary and it is thanks to the sympathetic nervous system that we can protect ourselves as much as possible in dangerous situations.

There are other times that our brain perceives a danger when there is no actual danger.  My son jumps out of bed in reaction to every sound he hears: a house creek, cats fighting outside, a car door closing.  Some part of his brain is constantly on high alert and then we have to wind him down with clear explanations for whatever he heard.  His body has reacted, but there is no actual threat.

Fears also creep into our brains as anxiety.  What if I’m not good enough?  What if I’m rejected?  What if I speak my truth and I’m called a liar?  What if I try that yoga pose and I fall and look stupid?  What if I confront that person and they’re mean to me?  What if… what if… what if…?  These fears also arise to keep us safe. Emotional threat doesn’t feel much different from physical threat.  I can vividly recall reading a mean email and having the same sympathetic nervous system reaction as when I experience a near car accident: sweat, speeding pulse, tense muscles.  The difference is the pause.  When we are facing an emotional threat, we usually don’t have to react to save our lives like we do when we are in a car accident.  We can take a breath.  We can take another breath.  We can feel the fear and get curious about it.  Denying the fear, or pretending the fear isn’t there only teaches the body to ignore the fear when we are faced with a real physical risk.

Just like I talk to my son to calm him when he is scared at night, we can talk to ourselves to understand why we are experiencing fear or anxiety in the face of an emotional threat.  When I received that mean email, I wanted to reply, to REACT,  immediatly.  I had so many pithy, cutting and even meaner remarks to say to this person.  My sypathetic nervous system made a clear choice of FIGHT.  How very unyogic of me.  Thankfully, I didn’t do that.  Instead, I turned off the computer.  I asked myself if this needed to be addressed immediatly.  While I tend to FEEL it’s urgent, when I stop to THINK I see that it almost never is.  I got curious and asked myself — why am I so scared right now?  What am I afraid of?  What is the worst that can happen?  I sat with it all and then went about my day.  I gave space for the parasypathetic nervous system to “rest and digest” rather than handing the wheel over to the sympathetic “fight or flight.”  When I felt calm again, I was able to respond to the email with honesty and integrity rather than defensive anger.

The nervous system is also in play when we practice yoga.  When you first come into a new stretch, the body often has an immediate reaction (sympathetic nervous system) to tense that muscle group in order to protect itself.  When you hold that stretch for 20-30 seconds, or 5-6 breaths, the brain tells the muscles that it’s safe to proceed and it’s just fine to surrender and release (parasympathic nervous system).  Yoga can be a safe time and space to be curious about how the body reacts to percieved threats.  On the mat, it’s possible to have time to make choices.  The choices we make on the mat can help teach us resiliancy in the face of our fears.  For some, it may be the fear of falling over in Vrkshasana (Tree).  For others the fear may be falling on our face in Bakasana (Crow).  For others still, walking into a yoga class when you’ve never heard of Tree pose in the first place can be just as terrifying.  Observe what bubbles up.  Get curious.  Breathe and choose a response.

I invite you to explore your fears in meditation this week.  Start with recalling a time you experinced fear and the corresponding bodily reaction.  If you suffer from any trauma or PTSD, I suggest bringing to mind an experience of mild fear that you feel safe recalling.  Bring your awareness to how your body reacted.  Notice if you are having a similar reaction now just recalling the memory.  Recall to mind how you dealt with the fear — if you had to react or if you had time to honor the pause and respond to the fear.  Try to recall the experience without judgement, but as if you are watching a movie, detached from the events.  What did this experience teach you?  What would you have done the same or differently if you were there again?  How did going through this experince teach you resiliancy?

Now, bring to mind something you are currently afraid of — I’d suggest not starting with a paralyzing fear, but something that is more mild.  It may be a challenge at work that you are anxious about, or a difficult conversation you need to have with someone.  Notice what bubbles up in the mind and body when you think of this fear.  Now take a few moments to get curious about what you are really afraid of in this situation.  Are you afraid of looking stupid in front of collegues?  Are you afraid of speaking in public?  Are you afraid this person will reject you in some way?  Continue to be curious about how this affects your sense of either physical or emotional security.  In your meditation, explore different choices to respond to the situation and continue to be curious about what your response may ilicit.  If the situation is something out of your control, recognize where you may have attachment to a particular outcome and what fears bubble up surrounding it.

Keep your awareness on your breath and notice any subtle changes in the body and breath as you practice meditation.  As you close out your meditation practice, ground yourself and your senses with some movement such as cat/cows or vocalizations of OM.  I also encourage you to journal about what you learn through this practice and how it will inform your response next time you are experiencing fear.

Fear is a necessary human reaction to danger and it should not be cast aside.  Tap into the feeling and experience to make a sound judgement of the fear and what, if any, threat may be lurking in the feeling.  Honor the fear, give voice to it and when you are able, respond to the situation at hand.  With practice, discern where there is a real danger and where there is only percieved danger.  Learn the difference between a physcial threat and an emotional one.  Choose courage over comfort as you build resiliance.  Most importantly, remember that this is a life long practice.  You will miss the mark.  I miss the mark all the time.  For that one email that I was able to respond thoughtfully and appropriatly, there are dozens where I pressed send before thinking.  Learn from these moments so that next time you can push pause, take a breath or two and respond rather than react.  Fear can be a gift when we know how to work with it.

 

Love Light Meditation

art beach beautiful clouds
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Feel your body sinking into the floor.  Breathing in and breathing out.  All muscles and joints soften and release.  Simply breathing.

I invite you to imagine a beautiful light at your heart center.  Notice it’s shape and color.  Notice it’s vibration, if it has a sound.

This light is uniquely you and uniquely yours.  It is your passion.  Your kindness.  Your love.  It is you at your highest and purest self.  Honor it.

Notice as the light begins to pulsate and grow.  Reaching every cell in your body.  Expanding through your chest, bringing light and love and healing to everything it touches.

The light grows down through your belly, and down your back.  Healing everything in its path.  Down to your hips and pelvis.  Up to your shoulders.  Out to your arms and fingertips.

The light continues to pulsate and grow.  Reaching down through your legs, your feet and your toes.  Up through your neck and head, over and around your ears, your face, the back of your head and up through the crown of your head.

Every part of your body is now filled with this light.  Every muscle, every cell.  It brings you peace, healing and love.  And indeed this light cannot be contained.

It expands and grows beyond your body, illuminating the room and touching every person in it.  Sending and sharing your love with them.  Receiving love in return.

The light continues to grow and expand, reaching every corner of the building and simply bursts right out the doors to reach our community.  Imagine this light reaching those you love and those you struggle with, gifting them with your peace, your compassion, your love.

The light only grows brighter and larger with each person it reaches, growing to reach the farthest corners of the world.  Reaching everyone you love, both near and far.  Everyone you struggle with, near and far.  Your light, your love, touches everyone in pain and suffering.  Sending them love and healing.

Simply allow yourself to let go here, surrender to this light, bask in this light, trusting that it will travel wherever it is most needed.

(Allow a few minutes for silence)

Slowly and gently bring yourself back to this room.  Remembering that this light stays with you and is a part of you wherever you go.  You can access this light anytime you need it.

Gently begin to wiggle your fingers and toes.  Deepening your breath as you stretch your arms overhead.  When you are ready, gently roll over onto the side of your body.  From here, gently push yourself up into a seated position.