Do you feel good will towards your body? Do you love your body? Could you be friends with your body? For most of us the answer is complicated, embedded with lots of history and memories of past experiences.
One of the most important components of an ongoing relaxation practice is that we acknowledge our body. We pay attention when we’re feeling relaxed and carefree, when we’re uptight and anxious, when we’re buzzing with agitation, and everything in between. Regular practice is an opportunity to soften and release muscle tension and to get to know and accept ourselves.
We gather tension as we move through life. Think of the muscles in your neck and upper back. Is it easy for the blood and fluids to flow through when they are tight and contracted? It’s not in the best interest of your body to tighten up and make it hard for blood to flow so why does it do that? Does your body hate you? Is your body working against you?
A tight, contracted body is a fear response to threat. We are triggered into fight/ flight/ freeze/ fawn responses and hyper vigilance that can last for years. We armor up and shield ourselves
You’re walking home feeling uncomfortable because the waistband on your jeans is too tight and it’s been digging into your stomach all day. It’s a relief to stretch your legs and you’re starting to enjoy the movement of the muscles in your thighs. Your brain is waking up with the fresh air. You pass a group of guys and one of them makes a derogatory comment about your fat butt. The others laugh. Instead of cooking supper at home like you planned, you detour to a fast food place then the corner store on your way home. By the time you fall into bed, your stomach is stuffed and your mind is numb from watching 5 hours of tv. You toss and turn, too full to sleep, berating yourself for your weakness.
Dysregulated eating and other addictions are what we do to escape the devastating feeling of being shamed.
You wish your body was more like other people’s. You’re too tall or short, you have acne or crooked teeth, your hair is too red or your skin is too brown. You were born with one arm or you were in an accident or a fire or have a serious illness or you’re old or … You’ve been ridiculed for your body and feel like an outsider. You turn away from yourself in the mirror to avoid feelings of shame.
You know in your head it’s not your body’s fault that you are different but becoming friends with it? That feels out of reach.
One result of childhood trauma is that we turn against ourselves. When we feel overwhelmed, trauma is stored in our body along with associated memories and sensations. We hate feeling powerless and we avoid being in our body. We develop deficiency beliefs like I’m unlovable or worthless. Years of anxiety and shame take their toll.
The remedy, and there is one, is in being present and accepting in our body. We begin to know ourselves and eventually are able to welcome all aspects of ourselves. Physical. Energy or sensation in our body. Emotion. Thoughts. We see and challenge the inner critic that drives us to shame ourselves. Kindness and compassion become available to us at all times.