“To me, beauty is about being comfortable in your own skin. It’s about knowing and accepting who you are.” – Ellen Degeneres
As a Somatic Movement Therapist, I help people to understand their bodies better through sensory awareness and self inquiry. We listen to the body’s sensations, memories and wisdom through quiet reflection, meditation or movement. Inhabiting one’s body is a great gift, as it gives us access to all of our senses and human experiences.
The way we perceive our appearance shapes our ‘body image’. Unfortunately, many people find their bodies to be a source of stress and disturbance. This is especially true for women or men who struggle with food issues and/or their weight. When we are preoccupied with self-critical thoughts about how we look and how we imagine we are perceived by others, this can be defined as a negative ‘body image’
This negative body image is increased by cultural conditioning and a ‘perfect’ body type which gives certain messages about the body, i.e. my body is fat, ugly, flabby, doesn’t look ‘right’, etc. This often leads to a feeling of shame, which can make it difficult to show up to social or work situations, and/or cause resistance to dating and sex where the body feels exposed.
The work I do focuses on helping people notice how their body image is distorted, learn how to turn the focus inwards to encourage healing, and understand the body’s intelligence. The term I use for this is ‘body sense’. Here are a few specific interventions to increase one’s body sense.
- Feel the body from the inside out (the sensations, the temperature, the movement impulses) which can give a better understanding of how the body operates. This, in turn, can promote a growing ability to take care of the body, i.e. eating when hungry, stop eating when full, resting when tired, etc.
- Have gratitude for the functioning of the body, and how our body actions can help us engage with our environments and with others. This is illustrated by the following statements: ‘my hands pet my dog’, ‘my arms hug my friends and/or loved one’, ‘my legs can dance’. These concepts can increase pleasure and allow rewarding body experiences.
- Learn to nourish the body through healthy foods, resourceful body experiences (taking a bath, deep breathing, taking a walk in a relaxing environment) and active creative expression.
It takes time to rewire the brain and find the right practice to change one’s orientation from body image to body sense, but it is well worth it. This doesn’t cancel out the desire to take care of one’s appearance and express one’s style. Instead having a stronger body sense gives you the opportunity to expand life to the fullest and operate from a more authentic sense of self.
Want to learn more? Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Image of Amber Witten’s performance at Tamalpa Institute. Photo by Bridget Koehler