Fitness

a poem for us and our bodies

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CW: discussion of body image and negative self-image

During last weekend’s yoga retreat, wonderful teacher Jillian Pransky read some words I needed to hear. Words I needed to believe. Words I needed to feel. I’m going to write them twice– once as Jillian read them, and once where they live– in the poetry of Nayyirah Waheed.

and I said to my body. softly. ‘I want to be your friend’. and it took a long breath, and replied ‘I have been waiting my whole life for this.’

What a thought: being real friends with my body. It seems an odd thing to consider. But it’s true: my body and I haven’t been on friendly terms for most of my life.

However: last weekend, in a yoga class, hearing those words, I was struck. Is this now a possibility for me? And what would that mean, to be a friend to my body?

What it meant in that moment: to be grateful for the body I have, for what it does, for its strength and resilience and beauty and grace and solidity and persistence.

To pay attention to it: what does my body want to do in this class, and how much, and for how long, and how intensely or gingerly? If I listen, it will tell me. If I go slow, it will speak and not yell.

To respond to it and let it guide me, so it can continue to be there for me when I want to do more later. We are a team, my body and I. We could work together. Like friends. Good friends.

What does it mean going forward– being friends with my body? All relationships require accommodation and compromise, and the good ones promise moments of happiness, joy, hilarity, sadness, frustration, and hopefully contentment. But they all happen one moment at a time. I had this lovely moment of realization and gratitude and curiosity and hopefulness. Let’s see what moments there are ahead.

Here’s the whole poem. It’s called Three. By Nayyirah Waheed.

‘no’

might make them angry

but it will make you free.

If no one has ever told you, your freedom is more important than their anger.

*

and I said to my body. softly. ‘I want to be your friend’. and it took a long breath, and

replied ‘I have been waiting my whole life for this.’

*

If

the ocean

can calm itself,

so can you.

We

are both

salt water

mixed with

air.

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