Dancing Words (a Bodyness Blog Wave post)

 

Two of my favourite things in the world are dancing and writing.

When I dance, I love the feeling of my body moving through space, the stretch of my muscles, the flow of my breath. When I am grounded, centred, and completely IN my body, I feel connected not only to my deepest core, but to the whole of the Universe. My cells dance in time to the rhythm of creation as I express my soul through movement.

When I’m writing, I can get to a place of similar flow and connection. Words I didn’t know I contained flow through my hands and appear on the screen. Images and phrases that delight and astonish me suddenly appear unbidden. My story emerges, dancing with the rhythms of life.

Sometimes, dance and writing collide. While reading a written piece out loud, I come across a word that I particularly enjoy. I take a moment to feel the  shape of the word, to roll it around my mouth and appreciate the dance of speaking. Or, while dancing, a word will come to mind and shape my dance with its meaning.

There’s the dance of the written (or spoken) word…and words that shape the dance.

Below is a list of 16 of my favourite dancing words. These words dance as they are spoken…and they shape the dance I do. Today, I invite you to take a minute to fully appreciate these words. Read them aloud to yourself and appreciate the way your mouth moves to produce the sounds they make.

Feel the texture and rhythm of the sounds—the crisp report of a P or a T, for example, or the soft hiss of a “Sh”—and notice how they feel. Appreciate the marvel of a mouth that can form these sounds, the wonder of language.

 

(Feel free to download the picture so you can play with it whenever you want)

 

And then take another minute to dance your way down the list.

How does it feel to twirl? How is it different from oozing or striking? Move your way through the words and see how they translate into your body.

There is no wrong way to do this…no “good” or “bad.” There is only you, your breath, your body. Give yourself the gift of exploring and enjoying them today.

 

Dancing With The Past: The One Thing I Would Erase If I Could…

Two weeks ago, Michelle Ward asked “What do you wanna erase?”

I’ve given this a lot of thought. And here’s my answer:

If I could erase one thing from my life, it would be the idea that my body needed to be a certain size or shape in order to “be a dancer.” It would be the feeling of shame, anger, and sorrow when the audition judges told me, “That was the best audition piece we’ve seen…but if you want to come to this school, you’ll have to lose some weight.” And I’d probably chuck out the years of fall-out from that experience for good measure.

Going through life without being told (essentially) “Your passion and talent are insignificant in the face of your inability to maintain a body weight which meets our standards” would have been pretty effing sweet.

And, regardless of whether I became a professional dancer or not, I would have had a lot more room for creativity and passion in my life if I hadn’t been constantly hating my own body and thinking things like “If I get up to a size 12, I may as well kill myself.” (Yes, I actually thought that. And that makes me sad.)

Officially “too fat” for dance school here…riiiiiiiiight.

My body was never meant to look like what our society as termed “a dancer’s body,” but it was strong and flexible, and my dancing has moved more than one person to tears. And it made my husband fall in love with me. For real. That’s what’s important.That’s what really counts.

What if you could be happy with your body right now, as is? What if you could be a dancer at any size? What if you could put on some music and move and just be happy in the skin you’re in? 

Pssst…you totally can. Because size is just a number, no matter what the ballet teachers say.

The Dance of Yoga: Finally getting to know my post-baby body

A few weeks ago Rebecca Garrison, a fellow Walnut Hill alumna, made a blog post about how having a baby changes your body. And it really made me think.

This is a girl who, unlike me, was still rockin’ a super-strong-dancing-4-hours-a-day body when she got pregnant. Who was (is) a freaking Pilates instructor. And SHE was having trouble getting to know her post-baby body? SHE was struggling with aches and pains and abdominal weakness? Really?!?!?!

It was like a light turned on for me. I realized that the problems I was having weren’t my fault, and that my post-baby inability to pick up where I’d left off physically wasn’t due to some kind of character flaw or innate laziness…it was because I was trying to get this completely new body to do things that it just wasn’t ready to do!

OK, I admit, I didn’t figure this out all at once. But that blog post definitely started it.

I love my body. I love the fact that it grew and nourished a healthy and (frankly) ENORMOUS baby. But even though I had played with moving it and dancing it, and I was making headway in that area, I knew in my gut that I was lacking the pure physical strength I needed in order to keep going injury-free. I couldn’t feel my muscles. I couldn’t connect to the strength I was used to, especially in my torso. It was FRUSTRATING.

And, really, it makes sense. Pregnancy stretches you in incredible and irrevocable ways. Of course it changes you.

…and this was THREE WEEKS BEFORE HE WAS BORN. Man, was I uncomfortable!

I didn’t know how to move this body. I didn’t know how to trust it. I didn’t know how to take care of it.

But being aware of the problem and applying a solution are two different things. I wanted to learn how to move and trust my body again. I wanted to feel strong again. So I did what I would have done pre-baby: I signed up for a yoga course.

I’d been dying to start a home practice again, but couldn’t seem to get back into it on my own…so 30 Days of Yoga seemed perfect (its tagline is “A course in finding, and keeping, your own home practice of yoga,” after all). I downloaded the video of my selected practice as soon as I could…

…and that’s where I ran into the problem of not-knowing my post-baby body.

The practice? Awesome. Marianne Elliott is great, and the flow is good and everything should have been fantastic. But it wasn’t. I was expecting to have to work hard and feel out of my depth. I was expecting to struggle a bit. I wasn’t expecting to not be able to do it at all.

I think in hindsight that a lot of the flow was a strain on my body, but what made me stop at the time was this: The main transition, repeated throughout the practice, involved bringing your leg out of downward dog and forward between your hands, moving you into a lunge. And I just couldn’t do it.

I’m not saying “it was hard so I stopped trying,” or “I didn’t like it,” or “it didn’t feel good.” I mean that a) I didn’t have the abdominal strength to even remotely attempt it and b) the belly that used to be fairly flat in spite of my curviness…isn’t anymore. There just isn’t room for my leg to go that far. Mama has a belly.

And that’s when Rebecca’s “Babies change your body” post really sank in.

Oh…I can’t just do my old exercises more gently or push through anyway…I actually have to change the way I do yoga (or anything else). I need…modifications!

And then I found some. I went to Curvy Yoga.com and found everything I needed:

Modifications for curvy women. Modifications for people who need to build strength again. Modifications for me.

Anna Guest-Jelley also has a selection of sample yoga flows that are just-challenging-enough so that I can rebuild my strength and body-connection without pushing past my edge and into seizing-up-and-hurting territory (a place I’ve become all-too familiar with since Xander was born).

Up until my epiphany, I would have (I’m SO ashamed to admit it) scoffed at the modified postures and looked for something “more challenging.” Now, I embrace them WHOLEHEARTEDLY for the pure awesome that they are. I’ve been doing them every night since Saturday. And I can already feel a difference. I feel more physically alive than I have in years. I feel stronger and more flexible. For real.

The best part is that I don’t regret my 30 Days of Yoga purchase at all. I’m looking forward to the daily emails I’ll be getting over the next 30 days. I’m loving the feeling that people all over the world are practicing yoga with me. Heck, I found Curvy Yoga through Marianne’s site (she and Anna offer 30 Days of Curvy Yoga twice a year, and I am SO signing up for it at Christmas!).

“A course in finding, and keeping, your own home practice”? Absolutely. I can already tell that it’s going to live up to its name. Just not the way I expected.

Now I’m really and truly getting to know the body I have now, instead of trying to make this completely-different post-baby body behave just like the body I had before I grew and pushed out an almost-10-pound baby.

And that…is awesome.

<3

100% Me-Sized

It’s been a week since I wrote my letter to my body. One week since I declared total acceptance and love for my physical self.

You know how sometimes you write or decide something and it just…doesn’t take? It sort of floats away into the limbo of half-baked dreams and broken promises?

This is not one of those times.

I know this because instead of fizzling in the wake of photos and mirror-sightings, this body-love of mine is growing. And it’s taking on a life of its own.

I didn’t really understand it, but for a long time I’ve felt…small. I’ve talked about feeling tentative and apologetic, but honestly, it was coupled with a sense of being smaller than my physical body. Here’s my theory: for years, my mental image of myself has been pretty much the way I looked in university, which is about 60lbs lighter than I am now.

…sort of this size…although at this point in time I thought I was enormous…

Which meant that whenever I came face to face with a more-current image, I found my body startlingly big and spiraled down into body-hate.

It also meant that even when I danced and wiggled my toes and all that great stuff, I struggled to be fully embodied…because I wasn’t allowing my awareness to stretch out and fill the entire physical container. It was like -most of the time- only part of me was alive and conscious and able to feel things, and the rest of me was a like shameful add-on that I tried not to notice or inhabit.

Does that make sense?

But the other day I was out for a walk, and I realized what was going on. I could feel where my accepted-self ended and the empty part began (and yes, it felt really weird). As soon as I realized this, I consciously allowed my awareness to spread out and fill ALL of me. Not the size I thought I “should” be, but the size I AM. No judgement, no “Ack, my thighs are HUGE.” None of that. “Hey, I’m ME-sized,” I thought, and it felt good. “No matter how big or small I am, I am always me-sized,” I thought, and grinned.

After my walk, Matthew and I did a photo shoot for a super-exciting project I’m working on. I admit I had one initial moment of “OMGSOBIG” when I looked at the first images, but wonderful-Matthew reminded me of my mission and suddenly my new awareness kicked in…and everything was fine.

…MORE than fine. I looked at those photos in an entirely new way: they weren’t “good” or “bad,” they were just me. 100% me. And we went from there. I’ve never had so much fun with photos in my entire life, and it showed!

Here’s the thing: My thighs? They’re my thighs. Every inch of them is me. They’re not my “real” thighs encased in a layer of shameful non-me ickiness. My stomach? It’s my stomach. All of it. Mine. As-is. Hating the “flab” on the surface means hating part of myself. I’m SO done with that.

I’m done judging my photos by how skinny I look in them (I’m not a skinny person, and that’s really OK. I’ve been skinny, and it didn’t work for me).

…some people are naturally this size. But me? Not so much.

Instead of trying to look thin in photos (or in life in general) I’m going to go for looking 100% myself. Not less of myself. Not smaller than myself. Just me. Because that’s what I am. Me. 100%.

Do you know what this means?! I can stop worrying about my jiggles and the fact that I’m wearing a larger size than I did when I was 21.

I can stop making healthy choices because they’ll decrease the size of my “unacceptable” bits, and start making them because they make me feel awesome (I’d heard this was possible, but I rarely seemed to be able to DO it myself). I can move because my body wants to move instead of being motivated by a desire to burn calories (OK, I was working on this one anyway).

And -here’s a major change- I can choose to have pizza and ice cream and watch a movie on the sofa instead, if that’s what I need just then, and I can savour every bit of it without feeling guilty. My routines can be based in self-care, not “self-improvement.”

I could get a bright red dress and totally rock it right now, instead of promising myself I’ll do it when I’m smaller. And -I LOVE this one- I can look at a photo of myself at my current weight and think “Yeah, I look totally 100% myself in this photo” instead of wishing I’d held my stomach in more or wondering if my photoshop-savvy husband could fix my double-chin.

I mean, maybe this is all just me. Maybe no one else has struggled with this. But I highly doubt it. So here’s the truth:

I’m a size 18. I jiggle. I have cellulite. I have rolls and stretch marks. But you know what? I have a smile that lights up a room, a presence that is palpably awesome, and dammit, I’m gorgeous right now. Fat and all.

Take that, every woman’s magazine currently in circulation! “Get slim now”? How about “get joyfully embodied and love every inch of you as-is”? Which one sounds better to you?

I think we’re afraid that if we love our bodies as they are, we’ll do nothing but eat cake and chips and sit on the sofa all day. I don’t know about you, but I’ve done plenty of that stuff while hating myself for doing it and hating the body I’m doing it in. I can’t see how loving myself completely will make the situation worse…in fact, making friends with my body can only help things here.

I’ve made a permission slip:

You can take a copy if you want, because this permission doesn’t just apply to me. You have complete permission to be 100% YOU-sized too. Because when we live fully inside our bodies, we’re beautiful. And that’s true no matter what size jeans we wear or how jiggly our tummies are.

Time to do a 100%-me-sized Happy Dance! 😀

A Letter To My Body

Dear Body,

I’ve given you a lot of shit over the years. I’ve abused you, overworked you, underfed you, berated you, loathed you, stuffed you full of foods that make you feel crappy, and mourned your changes.

I haven’t looked after you particularly well, or expressed much any gratitude or appreciation for you. I’ve drugged you with food and caffeine and alcohol. I certainly haven’t moisturized you enough or pampered you very much.

I’ve spent a great many years almost entirely separated from you, keeping my awareness up in my head or in the future or the past -anywhere but in you.

Body, I don’t want things to be like this any more. I’ve been thinking about this a LOT lately. I’ve come to some realizations. And there are things I want to tell you:

I appreciate you.

You have carried me to magical places.
You have expressed my heart through dance (even when I didn’t know exactly what my heart was feeling).

You have weathered all of my abuse, and still you’ve carried on.
You keep hanging on to your strength, even when I do nothing to support you.
You grew and birthed a beautiful little boy, and nourished him all on your own for months.

You instinctively know when to reach out with a hug.
You are full of quiet wisdom…when I take the time to listen.
You stand tall and radiate warm, glowing energy.

You are beautiful.
We are beautiful.
I am beautiful. (At this age. At this weight. Right now. Always.)


You are a miracle, body of mine.

And you know what else?

I miss you.

I want to be present to your sensations. I want to feel my ribs expand and relax as I breathe. I want to feel the pressure of each foot as it treads the ground. When I reach out with my hands, I want to really notice what it feels like to run fingers through my hair, stroke my son’s cheek, or give my husband a hug. I want to taste the food that I eat.

When I move, I want to feel something other than distrust and fear that I’m going to hurt myself. I imagine you’d like that too.

So, I make a promise to you:

From this day on, when I look in the mirror I will shower you with love. Every time. I will cherish you.

Because, really, you’re just amazing.
And everything about you tells a story about me and my life:

My feet are wide and large. They ground and support me.
My legs and hips are strong and wide. They carry me through the world and dance to the music around me.
My belly is round and soft. It stretched to hold my growing son. Every stretch mark is a testament to that miracle.

My arms are big. They’re strong enough to lift the cares of the world from someone’s shoulders and wide enough to hold my family in a warm embrace.
My hands are strong and nimble and quick to learn.
My eyes are bright and observant.
My smile is wide and dimpled.
My breasts are large and soft. They fed my little one and helped him grow into the boy he’s becoming.

My grey hairs are a testament to the challenge of parenthood. Every one is a badge of honour.

How can I criticize something so powerful, so resilient? It’s madness. How can I look at you and wish you were anything other than your amazing self? You’re incredible.

What do you say, body?

Can we give this thing called life another shot? Together?

Because I really can’t do it without you.

What do you think?

Love,
Meg