Updated: Feb 22, 2021
Honoring Our Bodies
"Throughout our lives, we cycle through times of expansions, times of contraction, and times of being suspended in a pause or plateau where we are assimilating and integrating our experience. These rhythmic changes are as natural to us as is our breath. As the internal metronome of rhythm, our breath mirrors this life process of taking in and absorbing, letting go and relinquishing, and resting in the moments in between." This quote by Donna Farhi is underlined and highlighted in my old, used copy of her book, Bringing Yoga to Life: The Everyday Practice of Enlightened Living. I love the way she explains the seasons of practice as being reflective of the rhythms of our lives.
This brings to mind how we are unique and intuitive beings that come from nature and just as nature goes through seasons and rhythms, so do we. We are never the same as we were yesterday or last month nor are we the same as we will be next year. This means our needs change just as we do. This also means that health and wellness are not one-size-fits-all; they should be as specific and individualized as we are.
Between marketing ploys, social media, diet culture, and other institutions, we've forgotten that we are intuitive beings that ultimately know what is best for us. We forget that we are unique individuals with unique needs. In losing sight of our intuition and uniqueness, we do a huge dishonor to ourselves, especially our bodies, whether it's through food, physical activity, or even health care. How freeing would it be if we turned off all of the external influences and instead tuned in to our own instincts and therefore honoring our bodies?
So, how can we work towards honoring our own bodies? Start by honoring:
your hunger and fullness cues...When we engage in restrictive or restrained eating, we are essentially telling our own bodies that we don't trust them to do what they're supposed to do. When we use "willpower" to control our food intake, we let external factors control our eating habits instead of our internal cues. If it's "lunchtime" and you're not hungry, wait. If you are hungry, eat. If you're eating a large meal and feel full halfway through, save the rest for tomorrow. If you eat the entire meal and feel satisfied, great! If any of this verbiage is triggering, feels conflicting to what you know, or if you want to learn more about trusting your own body's cues, I'd love to work with you. Check out my website for more information.
your cravings...Again, when we deprive our bodies, we are teaching them that we don't trust them. This can lead to unhealthy relationships to food which can wreak havoc on our mental, physical, and emotional health. What would happen if we gave in to our craving and moved on? If we want pizza, order a pizza, or better yet, make your own! Eat it, enjoy it, and move on. Over time this trust you create can allow freedom with food. Lately, I've been craving homemade chocolate chip cookies but your girl is not a baker so I was looking for an easy plant-based recipe and LET. ME. TELL. YOU. These olive oil chocolate chip cookies from Tessa at Salted Plains are out of this world! I love that they have minimal ingredients, use only one bowl, and include maple syrup as the sweetener.
your body's reaction to food...For so long we've been told what to eat, what not to eat, what's "bad" food, and what's "good". But what if we instead listened to our own bodies (noticing a pattern here?) when we eat certain foods and let our bodies' reactions help decide what foods are right for us? Food is so personal to each individual. If you can eat gluten without any problems, there's no need to jump on the gluten-free bandwagon. If eating dairy constantly gives you digestive upset, try decreasing or removing it for a while to see if your symptoms subside. This idea of intuitive eating puts you in the driver's seat when it comes to your food choices and not the latest fad diet. Instead of the mindset of "I can't have this because of...", reframing it to say "I choose foods that make me feel good." can have huge impacts on our overall wellbeing. Hello, empowerment!
your energy levels...Woke up and missed your morning workout because you were too tired? Don't feel like making dinner so you order take out? Decided to take two yoga classes in a row because you were feeling like a rock star? Acknowledging that our energy levels are constantly changing giving in to what our body needs can be an ultimate act of self-care. This is one reason I am grateful to be leading my Flow & Restore class on Friday evenings. We start class with a slow and intentional flow to get the body prepared for rest. The last half of class includes a few supportive and restorative postures along with a guided meditation. This is an opportunity to honor your body's needs by choosing your level of intensity for the flow, pausing in child's pose as needed OR coming for the restorative postures and simply resting in a savasana or constructive rest pose until we drift into the restorative half. It's like a choose-your-own-adventure book (does anyone remember those?)!
your physical ability...Donna Farhi says, "If we do not trust who we are in the present, we will forever create a practice for someone who does not exist." When it comes to our yoga asana practice (or any physical activity practice), there is a tendency to get caught up in what we think we should look like. The old "I can't do yoga, I'm not flexible" or "If I could just get into a handstand like those Instagram models..." prevents us from creating a practice that is authentic to our own needs and abilities. Maybe we used to love to run and do all the cardio when we were younger and now our bodies feel best when we're lifting weights or taking a pilates class. Aligning our physical activity with our own abilities can create a motivating and fun experience where there may have otherwise been hesitation and avoidance. Donna goes on to talk about the seasons of practice that coincide with the stage of life we are in and writes that "the practice should serve you; you are not a servant to the practice." I believe yoga is the practice of getting to know ourselves and this practice truly meets us where we are in that moment of life, no matter our physical ability. If you'd like to talk more about finding a practice that is tailored to your specific needs and abilities, I'd love to chat!
your "gut feeling"...I am continually working on saying yes only when it's a "hell yes". When my gut (also referred to as our second brain) tells me that saying yes to something aligns with my values, my vision, my goals, and my overall well-being, this shows up in my body as butterflies in my stomach (the good kind), goosebumps, or an overall feeling of warmth. Otherwise, I know it's a no when I get that pit in my stomach, when my throat feels tight, or when I can feel the sweat coming on. As a people pleaser, this is huge for me to give myself permission to say no! What about you? Do you find that you often say yes to things you know aren't right or that you don't want to do? How do you know when it's a "hell yes" for you?
your internal advocate...My friend Katie recently shared her story about her ongoing struggle with mastitis since breastfeeding three children. Her latest incidence completely took her down and even after every doctor and caregiver repeatedly told her it was just a bad case of mastitis, she knew her body and insisted it was something more than that. Her pain was so bad, she was administered fentanyl. She continued to press her doctors and caregivers until one causally mentioned sepsis. This would save her life. You can read more about her story here. While this is a more extreme case, stories of all severities happen all the time, especially in communities of color. Yes, healthcare professionals are there to take care of us, however, it is also up to us to be our own advocates. Listen to your body and speak up when you feel you aren't getting the care you need.
What are some ways you honor your body and its own natural rhythms? Do any of these resonate with you? Do you have additional tips to share? Would you like to learn more about this? I'd love to hear from you!