Imagine being in a relationship with someone who demanded that you do exactly what they wanted, when they wanted, no matter what. Or ignored all your contributions to the relationship and took you for granted. Or promised to spend time with you, but then cancelled when life got busy. Or constantly focused on your flaws and pointed out how you didn’t look the way you “should.” Yikes! Not the type of relationship any of us want in our lives.
So why then can so many of us relate to this dysfunctional relationship when it comes to our own body? I believe it’s because we weren’t taught how to relate well to this life container we were born with. Then we’re constantly bombarded with images and expectations of what a desirable woman should look like. And who doesn’t want to be desirable? In our culture, desirability and worthiness go hand in hand.
So how do we make a change? How do we say “NO” to the harmful and limiting messages we receive about our bodies? How do we make our culture better for ourselves and the young people in our lives? The first step is to start moving toward a mindful relationship with your own body.
A Mindful Relationship
Mindfulness means to pay attention, on purpose, to the present moment, and without judgement. (Thanks Jon Kabat-Zinn for that definition)
There are two main components to mindfulness:
1) intentionally paying attention, and
2) doing so with an attitude of acceptance.
Practicing mindfulness with our body helps us move closer to a respectful, nourishing, and generous relationship. The kind of relationship we deeply desire in our lives.
The Mindful Movement Revolution
One of the biggest areas I see women struggling with in their relationship with their body is around exercise. And the judgements they’re making about themselves based on how their body respond to exercise. We’re often taught about the importance of exercise and about lots of different ways to exercise, but not HOW to do it in a mindful, nourishing way. As Amber notes in her blog post on a revolutionary approach to movement, “It’s not only important to move your body, but to also practice listening to and connecting with it as you do.” This makes movement a great area to practice building your mindful relationship with your body!
Mindful movement includes paying attention to what you’re doing, and to how your body feels with openness, curiosity, and flexibility. Practicing mindfulness while engaging with movement teaches us to listen to our body and actually use that information to influence our decisions in the present moment. When we let the wisdom of our body (it knows what it needs and wants!) have a say and influence our decision making, we end up creating a relationship with exercise that we enjoy.
Mindful movement leaves us feeling energized, content, replenished, powerful, and grateful for the resiliency of our body. We’re able to stick with our exercise plans because they are inherently flexible. They allow us to connect with and move our body in a variety of ways, times, and environments. And they can adapt to our ever-changing schedules, energy levels, interests, and goals. Mindfulness allows us to accept our bodies as they are, and treat them with dignity and respect. We’re able to adapt to changing situations, and come back over and over again to a commitment toward moving our bodies in sustainable and generous ways.
So instead of exercising out of guilt, fear, rigidity, or to “burn off” what we just ate, let’s move toward an open, accepting, empowering, and flexible relationship with movement. Send your body the message that you’re available to listen, adapt, and move forward with compassion and consistency.
Join the Revolution
Want to join us in this mindful movement revolution? Here are my top 3 tips for cultivating mindful movement in your own life:
- Engage your senses while you’re moving. Smell the fresh air. Notice the physical sensations as you fill your lungs. Get out of your head and open your eyes to the visual world around you. Look for beauty. Listen to the natural sounds around you. Let your whole body become alive with sensation.
- Let your relationship with mindful movement be a practice. Each day presents a new opportunity to connect to and nourish your body with movement. It’s ok if the run you planned on going on didn’t work out since you had a late meeting- find an alternative way to express mindful connection to your body. Maybe it’s a hot bath instead. Need more ideas like this? Amber has some great ideas in her Skip the Exercise post.
- Practice pausing midway during your movement practice to check in. Notice the sensations in your body. Observe your thoughts and feelings. Note the quality of your experience. Be open to your body’s requests. Does it need a slower pace? A longer connection? More intensity? More support? A different type of movement? Practice listening and changing your behavior to match what you hear.
Checking in with your body while you’re moving, and actually listening to it’s internal messages is a foreign concept for most of us. So we created a free Guided Body Listening Activity just for you! It’s a guided mindfulness practice designed to help enhance your skills of tuning in and listening to your body. Sign up for our newsletter (right on our homepage) to get the audio link sent right to your inbox! And to get a monthly dose of our favorite Luminary tips, tools and inspiration. If you are already a part of our Luminary Newsletter, check the March newsletter for a link. Have fun trying out this guided mindfulness activity and be sure to let us know what you learn about yourself and your body in the process!