Yep, I said naked. That tantalizingly taboo word that gets a bad wrap from time to time. I wanted to write about body image (specifically mine), so I began by googling the word naked. Here's what I found:
Naked: A person unclothed, barren, defenseless, without cover, exposed to harm, unprotected, vulnerable.
YIKES! What a negative spin on the old au naturale! No wonder it gets a bad wrap.
I feel like this negativity translates into how a lot of folks feel about their bodies these days. And by a lot of folks, I mean me. Somewhere along the way, I got so wrapped up in trying to be a certain size, shape, weight, height, "LA Yoga teacher body" way that I forgot to just be me. And being me is what I do best! In the last year or so though, I've noticed a huge positive shift in the way I feel about my body. Somehow I feel more comfortable in my own skin. (YAY!) But where did this sudden boost of body love come from?! I certainly haven't always been this way.
Undoubtedly a huge part of it stems from the countless hours spent on my yoga mat learning self-acceptance and patience with my body, but this shift also occurred simultaneously with something else. BEING NAKED.
I traced my new found body love back to when I started nude modeling for art classes a little over a year ago. There is something so courageous about unabashedly presenting your natural body to another person (or people) to be interpreted as art! When I step onto a stage to be painted or drawn, I'm just a body though, nothing more, nothing less. I'm neither celebrated nor judged for all my lines, curves, dimples, scars, and unique parts that make me me. I started thinking, isn't that how it should be? The artists don't care what my body looks like. I'm just a form to be painted or drawn to hone their talents. However I show up is perfect every time.
Holy Moly. What a game changer if we all (myself included) felt that way about our bodies all the time!
Nude modeling accidentally became like a body image meditation for me. I don't have to put on make up (which I'm terrible at!), worry about what I'm wearing, or fix my hair. I can't entertain negative thoughts about my body because I'm so focused on holding the poses for extended periods of time. Plus it's not like there's anywhere to hide my least favorite parts when I'm on stage. I have to embrace them! I also have absolutely no control over how any of the artists will interpret my body, so I have to let go of the idea of what I "should look like." Something about that gives me so much peace.
While nothing has physically changed, my perspective has changed immensely. I know It will be a practice to keep this mindset up as my body changes and ages, but it's a practice I'm willing to stick with. I have so many more valuable things I want to to do with my time and energy than waste precious moments being weighed down by negative thoughts about myself. Of course I'll work to keep my body at its healthiest, but not because I'm trying to fit into some unattainable "should be" mold. I'll do it from a place of self-love and acceptance instead. The truth is, our bodies are just containers for our souls. In the end, I would rather people remember me for my heart, my soul, and for the way I made them feel rather than for body anyway.
While I completely understand that standing in front of a crowd in your birthday suit isn't for everyone, having a little more compassion for yourself, and for others certainly is. It's not easy, and I don't always succeed in doing so, but I'm striving to be the kind of soul that will shine bright regardless of what my body looks like. I've also started to look for that sparkle in the people I choose to surround myself with.
To help me keep my own personal body image in check (as well as the way I view others), I continually ask myself:
If we could see each other's souls instead of our bodies, would we still surround ourselves with the same bodies?
Food for thought as you flow through the holidays. :)
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Originally hailing from Charleston, South Carolina, Mary has called Los Angeles home since 2010. She is a licensed massage therapist, as well as a registered yoga instructor with 300+ hours of training. She's the co-founder/owner of YogaFam, which hosts family oriented yoga adventures around Southern California and beyond. Mary can be found teaching yoga in studios or privately all over the west-side of LA, soaking up some California sun on a hike or at the beach, or tackling a taco tuesday.
She strives to approach life with love, gratitude and self-acceptance, and she hopes to inspire her readers to do the same. "On our beautifully messy path to radical acceptance, rather than aiming for perfection, we discover how to love ourselves into wholeness."