I’m in the 4% of American women who claim they love or like their own bodies.
I’ve read that almost none of us do, even the young, pretty and “perfect” looking ones. Even the models! Even the 29 year old millennials, getting their botox injections every 3 months because, as one tells me, with a shrug “We all do, it’s expected!.”
I’m grateful to have the body I have. It wasn’t always this way.
As a young girl I recall being horrified that my knees were kind of wide, and not delicate at all. My nose was not exactly big, but it was not the tiny and pert nose I wanted. I wished for curvier breasts as my best friend blossomed at 13 and my body stayed thin and straight, and even more I wished to be petite and cute like my middle school friends with their straight shiny hair and cheerleader outfits, who could easily do splits while I could not, instead of being 5-8” tall, thin and awkward in my body at age 14.
My mother, who at 6’ tall had slumped in high school, encouraged me to stand up straight. So I did and always have. It seemed like a good idea. Due to my posture and maybe my yoga practice, I’m still asked regularly if I’m a dancer and complimented on my posture.
And by junior year in high school I realized my height had some advantages. I got a different kind of attention and respect from others. Even better, I could tower over most girls (and even men) at rock concerts, so had a great view of the band with or without heels. I looked older effortlessly, and got attention from “mature” men (college age and beyond) who seemed more sophisticated and exciting to me than the shy, silly boys my age.
I learned a deeper love for my body much later, from my yoga teachers Bryan Kest and Max Strom. I came to understand how sacred the body is — what a selfless servant it is, allowing us experience life through it. How the physical body can be a powerful tool for growth and self awareness, deserving of respect and care. I’ll never forget the day Bryan shouted to a class of 180 sweaty students struggling to do a series of simple movements one morning in Santa Monica:
“You think you look so pretty, but you can’t even move your body! Come on people! These are basic movements-not contortions! We’re just lifting a leg in the air and breathing!”
Max is 6-6” tall, with a club foot and a limp, but still managed to be absolutely elegant in his body. You felt his depth and stillness when he adjusts your posture in class, a reminder that you are also that, or could be.
Ana Forrest exudes a sort of powerful goddess energy that is raw, sensual and inspiring to be around. There’s a strong, palpable energy extending all around her. She sees you, easily feeling your fears or shallow breathing from across the room, and tells you how to change it through changing your body posture. You barely notice the deep wrinkles on her face, as the pure energy flowing through and out of her is breathtaking to witness.
Another teacher, Chris Acosta, healed his extreme spinal arthritis through yoga instead of the surgically implanted metal rods that were proposed, at age 18, curing his own chronic constant pain state. His body and life transformed. Chris is the person who taught me, 16 years into my practice, exactly how to pay attention to and honor my body 100%, never pushing it into a pain state. That the body’s wisdom is sharper and more trustworthy than what we “think”.
This is the real beauty and presence that increases with age, rather than fading away. This is the kind of beauty to aspire to, the kind where the growing inner light manifests in one’s physical form whether the person is in fact currently that golden, magical 21 year old beauty — or 50, 65 or 80 years old.
Certain areas of the body carry a special energy. For me, one area is my hands. My hands have shared nurturing energy with massage clients, cared for my own body and face every day of my adult life, created functional objects and art, written or typed love letters, held my mother’s hand in the hospital and cuddled tiny kittens. I always notice the shape and pressure and energy in other people’s hands.
I’m not saying my body is “perfect”. And I don’t believe it to be “better” than someone else who has a large scar, potbelly, crooked teeth or aged skin.
Beauty is subjective and deeply tied to our inner grace, light and vulnerability.
But I am in awe of how it’s both strong and delicate. It’s carried me all over the world.
It’s healed perfectly, exactly as it was designed to and mostly on its own, from illnesses serious and small.
Physically, it’s all I came here with, and it will here until I take my last breath in 20 or 30 years time. The body is a constant that will be with every one of us until leaving the planet for some unknown new experience. Let’s love and appreciate our physical selves.