As I work to support women struggling with eating disorders, I am aware that the body can feel like their number one enemy. The images in the media and the cultural focus on size and shape prey on young women's vulnerable minds. They become victims trapped in a body that does not conform. Controlling their food and exercise seems like the best solution to find love and acceptance.
Overtime, once again they will learn that love and acceptance are not gained by body image. They are gained by an internal felt-sense of joy, ease and pleasure within the confines of the muscles, skin and bones - and even the fat. When this love and acceptance are for the Self - then the rest of the world will follow. They will find out the intrinsic value they have in being women. Beautiful from the inside out.
Getting from point A to point B seems like a million mile trek unless you find tools to help you traverse the long journey. One of the most profound, effective, and FUN tools is movement. You might call it dance but this can be limiting since many people have a pre-conceived notion of what dance is. The idea in using the word movement is that it is very open ended. It could be moving in any way at all. There is no right or wrong way to move.
For the purposes of healing and recovering the lost parts of yourself, it's important to begin to recover a deep attention to your inner urges. Moving to the rhythm of music while keeping focus on your internal impulses is an impactful way to cultivate that inner attention.
This week for our movement group at the IOP, I brought a play list of songs inspired by the 5rhythms practice developed by Gabrielle Roth. (The rhythms she proposes are Flowing, Staccato, Chaos, Lyrical, Stillness.)
I began by leading the women into their bodies methodically, beginning with the head - moving down to the toes. As we felt into the music, we each dove deeper into the interior of our bodies. Once we had opened up in this way, I let the songs play in order with sparse guidance amidst the music.
Some of the prompts I offered the moving women were:
At the end of the movement experience we took 5 minutes in complete silence and stillness, laying on our backs. I asked each woman to place a hand on her belly and hand on her heart at the completion and say thank-you to her body. In reflection some women shared the complexity of having had a good time moving but simultaneously knowing that they are not grateful for their bodies much of the time. Others shared that they recognize the abuse their bodies have been through and they can appreciate them for enduring it all.
Once again, I am left with the important take-away that healing is a practice. Having used self-destructive coping tools to deal with the stressors of life for a long time, it's not easy to convince you that there are other options out there. You will need to find new, expressive and self-empowering tools to use - and just like with any craft, you will need to practice to master their art. But once mastered, these tools will be rewarding beyond your wildest imagination.
Moving toward recovery is a beautiful opportunity to get back in touch with lost parts of your embodied experience. Find music you like, that you resonate with, that shakes you up, that brings your to your knees. Music that makes you pray. You might find that you thank your body at the end. And surely your body will thank You.
Yonat Piva, MA, LMFT
I write about navigating the challenges of prenatal, postpartum, parenting & relationships. I believe we can inhabit our bodies with a renewed sense of fulfillment in being a human woman.