The twins were 10 months old and Elliott quit nursing. My nursing machine got bored with the boobs and fell in love with a bottle of formula. So my then D cup size breasts withered away to a small A cup in a matter of weeks. It felt like overnight. Yet this stubborn little mom-belly-pooch from diastasis recti (separation of the abdominal muscles) due to carrying two tiny humans, remained. Remains.
And I was suddenly supremely aware of these messages around me. Messages I had been able to ignore for years. Messages about what was the right and wrong kind of body to have. Messages about mothers losing their body shape (and therefore of course their dignity and self-worth).
“Get your body back!” “Lose the baby weight!” We’ve long been told the best way to feel ourselves again after a baby is born is to –fast as possible–return to a body that looks like the one we “had” before pregnancy. This is really just an extension of the falsehood we were told and we eventually start to tell ourselves: that our bodies determine our worth.
My body has value because it’s part of me. It carries my soul, my spirit. It is what gives me a human being experience. It is not merely functional, as anyone who’s had a baby, an enlightening sexual experience, or ran a marathon can tell you. Our bodies are both vehicle and temple, creatures with their own habits and servants to our command.
How can we unlearn our pathways of behavior that teach us to punish, reward, or ignore our bodies? How can we relinquish the belief system around our bodies being owned by others (as in: “my body has value because potential partners find me attractive” or “a doctor knows more than I do about my body”)? How can we undo the damage we have done by convincing ourselves that our bodies are thermometers for our self worth?
Standing in front of the mirror holding my small, limp, amazing breasts, I realized the other side of this story comes from well-meaning folks. The message that says “love your body all the time, no matter what! If you don’t you’re obviously a lesser human being who is unenlightened.”
It is also important to realize that to love your body all the time is also a false story. It’s impossible to love anyone or anything ALL the time! Don’t let yourself fall into that shame spiral either.
Instead of New Years Resolutioning yourself into depression, why not ask your body how it’s doing? Why not listen and have an exchange with your body? Even offer your body some much needed love and attention?
Here’s how you can try this at home, or even gather a few beloved sisters to join you.
YOUR OWN “LOVE YOUR BODY” YOGA SEQUENCE
Mantra (intention/affirmation): Choose a mantra for your practice. If you’re aiming at a radically self-accepting body-love practice, choose a few words that relate to this. Repeat these words out loud or silently to yourself while practicing each posture. Here are some ideas:
I love my body.
I welcome all sensation in my body.
I release negative thoughts about myself.
I embrace myself as I am.
I am free to enjoy my body.
My body does the best it can and I do the best I can.
It is my honor and responsibility to care for myself.
My body works hard to let me live my life!
I am grateful for all the things my body does and allows me to do.
Or your own idea! Try to avoid negative words and stick to the affirmative.
Pranayama (breath work): Find a comfortable position. Invite the breath into your belly and begin to slow the breath down as you deepen it. After 5 belly breaths, begin a full body scan. Imagine your awareness is a pointof light travelling your whole body, beginning with your toes. Notice where you feel the breath flowing easily and where you feel resistance. If you pause and shine the light at these points of resistance, notice if there are any emotions, memories, or thoughts living here.
Invite your breath into this place and hold for a count of 5. On the out breath, release whatever feels safe to release. Repeat as many times as necessary.
Move into child’s pose, by coming onto all fours and then pressing your hips to- wards your heels and allowing your forehead to come to the floor or a blanket. Allow your arms to stay ex- tended for a few breaths and then move your arms by your side. Try rocking the forehead side-to-side on the mat and see how it feels. Notice the parts of the body touching the earth. Repeat your mantra.
Move into hands and knees for a few rounds of cat and cow by tucking and tilting the pelvis and lifting heart/rounding spine in alternating motion. Repeat 4 or 5 times with your mantra. Notice what you notice.
Adho Muka Svanasana
Move into downward facing dog, taking any movement that your body is asking for (notice what it’s asking for!) or stillness. Repeat your mantra. Notice what you notice.
Move back to hands and knees and down onto your back. Move into a figure four pose by bending your knees and bringing right ankle to rest ontop of left knee. Interlace fingers behind thigh or shin and draw towards you. Repeat on other side. Notice if your hips are holding any emotion or resistance. If you discover some, try exhaling with an open mouth and inhaling your mantra.
Still lying on your back, draw your knees towards your chest and then release them over to the right side, towards the floor. Use an inhale to move back through center and then release legs to the left for reclining or supine twist on the other side. Repeat breath and mantra on each side.
Also called ‘corpse pose’. Release legs straight in front of you on the floor. Arms by your side but not touching your sides, palms up. Consider supporting your savasana for added comfort and ease by sliding blankets/bolsters/pillows under your knees and/or head. You may also use a blanket across your belly and pelvis or covering your whole body. This pose is to integrate all the other postures and instead practice the yoga of the mind – breath and meditation.
Repeat your body scan. This time, as you notice the parts of the body, thank them for their hard work (i.e. thank you feet for carrying me, thank you ankles for carrying me, thank you knees for bending and moving for me, etc.). To complete, take three open mouth exhales. And repeat your mantra out loud.