Alien Body Syndrome

I’ve been pondering the ways our bodies become foreign territory lately.

Several things inspired it–this :fire: interview on MarieTV, my belly dance class, and also interviews with martial artists for a book I’m planning.

And yesterday as I was walking I realized that the small of my back is always tight because I’m trying not to let my body sway too much. Walk straight, tight, compact.

I recently watched what was essentially an academic lecture on gender portrayals in advertising, “The Codes of Gender”. It talked mainly about femininity–how it’s portrayed as vulnerable, unconnected with surroundings or even objects the model touches. But the masculinity is hyperreal, too–even if the men are skinny they seem to have a certain strength or confidence that lines up with an ideal.

Both sides of this may not be the way the models actually feel, but it’s in the way they are presented by pose.

While I am intimately familiar with way women feel about their bodies, there was a theme in my interviews with the male martial artists–when they started they were unconnected to their bodies, because they were “not athletic” or “skinny”.

Women’s bodies are treated as objects. Men’s bodies are supposed to possess certain sizes and skills.

Most of us, I think, disassociate in one way or another, to not feel shame or inadequacy.

So we have these alien bodies that send up flares through pain or hunger or anxiety, trying to regain connection.

Like Glennon Doyle Melton talks about in that interview, yoga (and martial arts and belly dance) can be the way we reconnect with our bodies. More importantly, you have to take the step of being willing to listen not just to the flares, but the reason you disconnected in the first place.

It’s work I’m still doing. But Rising Strong is one resource I can recommend for exploring that, as is any of Brene Brown’s work.

And if you want a comrade on that journey, I’m here.

~ Bethany, Your Friendly Neighborhood Health Coach


My upcoming webinar Unlock Your Agency (Sep 30th, 7pm Central) will cover some easy tools to start on reclaiming your life, including your body. I’ll also have a special enrollment price for new clients!

Are you ready to reclaim your body as your territory?

The Power of Postures: 90 Degrees

On Tuesday, I bowed to an empty room.

I’ve had a few long-time parts of my life come to a close recently–a natural part of making way for the new.

Some were more painful or messy than others. One of the more clean cuts was resigning from teaching yoga classes at a local church. Attendance had tapered off for a long time, and though recently I’d had some more interest, I knew it was one of the parts of my busy-ness I had to let go of.

When I let my one regular attendee know I was going to not hold classes after Christmas, she told me she’d just go ahead and start yoga at home right away. I informed my other occasional attendees that I’d stopped, and had an earlier reprieve than I’d expected.

I had a key to deliver back, and a letter to post to the others who do yoga classes at other times–but it didn’t happen until that date I’d initially decided on–December 15th.

I came with a key and a letter to people I may never see, who weren’t part of my life. It felt so odd, to look at a space I had no reason to re-enter, and have not got to have a “last time” for closure.

I’d been doing yoga there for several years–it had been a twice-a-week thing for most of those years. It felt odd to just stand there without any goodbyes. I tried saluting, but that felt silly and irreverent. I put my hands in prayer, before my heart, but that felt a little borrowed.

So I went to the actual first thing that had come to mind.

A long, 90 -degree bow, like I was taught for respect in Japan.

Even as I tucked my hands where they were supposed to be, out of practice, I felt tears jump into my eyes. And I knew I’d found a way to know that yes, I was saying goodbye.

Why did it feel right? I don’t know. But humans link physical gestures with certain states of mind because it works–everything from a simple smile to the nuance of a handshake.

Yoga has taught me to be more present in my body–so maybe that’s why it was fitting. To make my last greeting physical.

And as a cap to a long sequence of good-byes, it felt even more important.