When I was at university, at the height of my war with my body, I went through a phase of going to the gym almost every night after classes to spend anywhere from an hour to 90 minutes on the Stairmaster; heart beating and dripping with sweat… those hours were a torturous ritual of me playing games to keep from quitting, eyes fixed on the timer, wishing the minutes away.
Yesterday I had the chance to get some time away from my mom duties and go to Moksha yoga for an incredible, intense 60 minute hot flow class. I can’t even describe how amazing I felt during the class. I was stretching, pulling, feeling all my muscles, my heart was racing and I was just dripping and dripping with sweat and it felt exhilarating!! At one point during the class I reflected on how much joy I was taking from the intensity and how different that experience felt to my previous Stairmaster rituals.
So what made for the difference? I don’t think it had to do with the type of activity it was. I think it has everything to do with my inner space. I used to approach those intense workouts from an attitude of desperation and punishment, like I could punish those shameful pounds away. If I pushed myself hard enough I would somehow be deserving of that body I was desperate for… I even approached yoga that way before my deeper cravings journey.
And what was behind that desperation? Fear. What if I never lost the weight? What if this was the body that would always define me? Then, I thought, I could never be enough, never be fully loveable. At the base of my desire for a fit body was really just a desire to actually know my worth.
All those hours in the gym in the past may have looked to the outside world as behavior that was serving my health but, in fact, they were just further affirming my fear. The same can be applied to our eating too. How much of our ‘healthy’ eating is born of sheer panic, fear of illness, fear of fat. When we are moving and eating in fear and shame is it really all that healthy after all?
Once I took the Deeper Cravings path I learned that when you actively engage your body from a place of acceptance, it is only then that you are truly doing something that is in alignment with your health. Presence offers us an instant opportunity to connect with that place inside us that is always whole, that always knows its worth.
Mindfulness of the body offers an amazing opportunity to become aware of the capabilities of the body and celebrate the gift that it is through movement, even the incredibly intense kind. Once we understand that intention and inner space are perhaps a more important part of what being healthy is all about we can begin to walk the path back to our own body. We begin to believe that our body is our sacred space and begin to treat it with the reverence it deserves.
Now when I get the opportunity to experience heart racing, sweat inducing activity or eat beautiful healthy nourishing food it feels great, like I am getting a little gift to just be present with my body; almost like I am taking my body out for a date and as I posted recently on my facebook page:
“Perhaps a healthy body is determined by more than the “right” BMI or fat to lean ratio, perhaps more importantly it is determined by the amount of kindness and gratitude it is fed. This is your one life and this is the one body you have been given. Allow yourself to befriend it and experience joy through the gift of your being. Move, Taste, Be and Breathe…ahhhh the sweetness of peace.”
Wonderful post and so true. It is amazing how much punishment women put their bodies through to feel some sort of acceptance, of being ok. And in college, that is an intense time for most!
I know women that traded high-school eating disorders for college exercise addictions. The real change must come from within.
I am so looking forward to going back to hot yoga in January when I visit my mom! There are no options for that where I live and the sa.una is too small to pull it off on my own! lol. I always wondered if a CD/MP3/IPOD player would melt in that heat anyways! In January I will get to go for 5-6 days straight! Yay!
Love the blog Peggy. I really appreciate what you are saying. I crave time for me and my body like never before.
Is it also a function of getting to that fantastic place in life where we are just working out for ourselves. If only we could make younger women realize the peace that comes with stopping the judgment.