Spring is just around the corner (really, it is!), and so are shorts, little dresses, and bathing suits. It’s the time of year when we start to feel insecure about our winter weight and head off to the gym to get our bikini bodies ready. My thighs touch in these shorts. Does this tank top show off my arm waddle? My love handles look awful in this swimsuit. At the gym we furiously run on the treadmill; in the kitchen, we limit our food. We scold ourselves for having been too indulgent over the winter months. The cycle of punishment at the gym and deprivation in the kitchen comes to the forefront again as we fret about how we are going to look once the sweaters are back in the closet. We compare ourselves to others who seem to have the perfect body, whether friend or celebrity.
Because our brains and bodies do not respond well to either punishment or denial, I think we have it backward and propose a new paradigm. Let’s move our bodies with joy, and feel the wonder of being physical creatures, and then reward ourselves with delicious meals. As we move into spring, let’s get our bikes out and enjoy the feeling of the breeze on our cheeks. Let’s walk or run outdoors and listen to the birds that we’ve missed all winter. Let’s go to the gym and feel alive as the sweat runs down our backs. After that, we’ll be really hungry, and we can eat a delicious meal to thank ourselves. See your body for the wonder that it is and treat it with loving-kindness.
When we come to our yoga mats, we often arrive hoping for a good workout — a good sweat or stretch. There’s nothing wrong with sweating and stretching, but we call yoga a practice, not a workout. It’s a place where we come to practice for life. As we move our bodies through postures, we get to know how it feels to move, and how it feels to inhabit this body. We learn how to be present with what is. Gurmukh Kaur Khalsa, a yoga teacher in L.A., said it beautifully, “Yoga is not about self-improvement. It’s about self-acceptance.” When we are present with what is in our bodies, we can learn to love and accept ourselves as we are. We need to prepare not our thighs for summer, but our hearts and minds. Does it matter how we look at the beach? Or does it matter that we are present with who we are and what we are doing there? Yes, we can be strong and lean and look however we choose, but why are we choosing those things? Can we also show ourselves loving-kindness and accept what is?
So this spring, as we prepare ourselves for summer, instead of punishing ourselves, let’s move our bodies with delight, enjoy the nourishment of food and drink, and let’s befriend ourselves with loving-kindness, creating healthy, happy bodies inside and out.
(Previously published in the Parliament Street News)