I was talking to my Norwegian girlfriend last night about boobies. She was heading out and said she felt like wearing a bra for the day. I told her how I only recently learned to regularly not wear a bra, because my last partner used to tell me how bras (along with heavy duty shoulder bags) are contributing to my chronic back and shoulder pains and I knew he could be right. Now I choose clothes based on whether I would get away with going braless underneath or whether it would match my groovy backpack.
It’s surprising how, when I walk outside, I easily catch both men and women staring like they immediately notice how something is, well, to them, amiss. I was also surprised to find out that it’s not so common to go braless in Norway, either. And neither is it normal that my friend doesn’t shave her legs, which I also don’t do.
What a contradiction for women to be pressured to go hairless all over our body whilst having to exert extra efforts to cover up in layers.
Women are made to believe that to wear a bra is to have necessary external support so that our friends won’t leave the upper bedroom and migrate to the bottom floor too early. But studies show that what happens is the opposite.
Sagging is caused by the weakening of connective tissues through time. Wearing bras all the time tell those support tissues that they don’t need to work so hard or exercise anymore. So all that built-in skin support that we are born with don’t develop or function as they should and could because we have decided to outsource something on sale from the department store instead.
Victoria has been keeping a secret, all along.
We have been denying our two best girlfriends their natural support system. What a shame.
Let Your Body Be
I have arrived at the age where I am most comfortable with my body. I want to liberate it from the mental and physical prison I had locked it in all throughout its developing life. Before I got here, however, there was a period of initial shock when I hit my thirties and discovered that the “myth” about metabolism slowing down as you get older is, in fact, a thing that really does happen.
I could no longer lose unwanted weight as quickly as I used to. Although, it did seem strikingly silly to get shocked about this because I never thought I could lose weight well enough, anyway, ever.
This event of my metabolic milestone gave me a good opportunity. It got my direct attention and, for the very first time, I decided to tune in to my body.
Generally, I have started accepting more and more that change is an ongoing and limitless process in life. So I also began acknowledging that if my body drastically changed how it worked at this stage, then it will keep on changing and I very well will never be able to do anything about it. Unless I go Michael Jackson Neverland Edition on myself.
But I don’t want to be terrified of growing old. I don’t want to deny myself changes that must naturally take place. I don’t want to one day find myself crumbling on a wheelchair as I miserably and dreamily look back and think, “I wish I had the body that I had fifty-eight years ago.”
I knew I had to start accepting and respecting the process. I want to enjoy the body I have now and accept it for whatever it becomes and wherever it is going. I want to pick up warning signs and, maybe, instead of seeing them as warnings, I could see them as personal invitations into the very nature of my unique physical journey and growth.
Suddenly, I realized just how much time and energy we spend “fixing” our body all our lives.
We were once tots wailing over its wounds and weaknesses. We hate on it as teenagers. We compare it with everyone else in our twenties. We obsess over its strength and weaknesses in our thirties…
So, an important question to ask at this point would be: when exactly will our body — this thriving physical space that has determinedly and successfully housed us all our lives — ever be good enough for us?
Our body has been adjusting to all our needs and whims while working so hard to keep all of our sh*t together (in a variety of practical, complicated, and innumerable make-the-unattractive-look-sexy ways), and yet we have turned into such ungrateful residents with unhealthy and single-minded obsessions.
I put my body through all kinds of made up diets. I only ate cereal. Only wheat bread. A weeklong lemon honey water cleanse. NO RICE. An all-protein and high-fat Tim Ferriss master plan (similar to today’s Keto trend and pretty successful, I must say). NO SUGAR. Only fruits and vegetables. Only bread. Only CHEESE! One meal a day. No meal a day…
But what was really unhealthy – more than all the digestively diabolical efforts combined – is that I had to do all of it because when I didn’t put things under these ludicrous control programs, I could actually eat for three straight hours at a buffet table or consume five cups of rice three times a day. Easy. Until I feel like I have to throw myself up.
That’s what satisfaction meant.
Some of the diets were highly effective, some were obviously stupid. Some were healthier ideas than others, many were simply short-term solutions. But what was sad about all of it was my desire to fix something from the outside in. Regardless of my hunger or fullness or appetite or energy at any given moment — they, all the moving parts of my delicate and highly intricate inner system, should be the ones to adjust to whatever pair of pants I want to fit in next, or what kind of feast was spread on a table before me.
Yes, the house often looked presentable on the outside, but how is it doing as a home? It’s like subscribing to a monthly magazine on home design and changing the decorative furniture each week; but the kitchen stove is rusting, the toilet is broken, and the bed is pretty but no one wants to sleep in it. Is it even comfortable?
Yoga, Breath, and Healing
Yoga started out as just one of my many efforts to get into a fitness lifestyle. This was five years ago. My initial challenges were my lack (or, rather, total absences) of flexibility, strength, and patience. I practiced on and off for years and treated it like any other workout, which is to say that I suffered through doing it because I had to do it. Because it was just another workout routine that I’d most probably soon give up on.
And, soon enough, I did.
In this last twelve months, however, my spiritual search and journey promptly led me back “to the mat” and when I returned, I had a completely new perspective with me.
The main difference happened in finally understanding why yogis were making a big fuss over “the breath.”
It was the combination of experiencing a weeklong meditation retreat nearly a year ago and a lower back injury a few months afterwards that made me look up YouTube videos with keywords “breath healing” because I didn’t want to go to the doctor. What I got was a ton of Ted talks all talking about the same thing: that your body will naturally heal itself through proper breathing. That, in both body and mind, mere awareness is the key to health. And the key to awareness your focus on breath: your direct connection with nature. Your nature.
I got addicted to breathing. I announced this once to friends and got a sarcastic, “That’s good. You need it to live.” But this sudden hyper-awareness on breath changed my entire yoga experience. I now understand what it means to be “grateful for the practice” and “be in the present moment” and “flow with your breath.” What I loved realizing was how every yoga practice has a value of its own and your progress and improvements are never meant to be linear. Whether on the mat or in everyday life.
There are days that you flow with every pose; there are days that your body resists and your limbs want to drag you back to bed or move on to the next itinerary. There are days when you feel strong and positive; there are days when you are not having any of it.
And that’s all okay.
Your body changes, your emotions and mental states change, your environment and everyday situations change. What is important is you took time to listen to your body and that is a worthy practice in itself. You are good enough just as you are right now. This is what your breath will tell you once you learn to truly listen to it.
Being Home and Staying In
Early this year, I stopped attending yoga classes and wanted to explore my practice on my own. My own pace and my own flow and my own breathing. The more I devoted myself to a regular practice, the easier it became to be ever present within my own body wherever I was. The more I paid attention to my breathing and how it takes care of everything, the less impressionable and reactive I was by external triggers.
The physical and mental impact was quickly apparent in how I stopped giving in to food cravings that used to take hold of me completely and throughout the day or throughout my life. It took only this entire last month of dedicating myself to practice meditation with yoga twice a day.
Sometimes I would last two days without encountering the desire or hunger for food. Sometimes a craving would cross my mind, but will just as quickly disappear in my bigger awareness that my body doesn’t really need it to nourish itself at the moment. But, see, I am not intentionally starving myself. It’s just that I finally allowed my body to take the stage and speak for itself; and so my scheming mind doesn’t get away with everything anymore.
I sense all parts of me working smoothly, my back pains have gone, and I feel that my body is grateful for the friendship I have finally decided to participate in. It may sound nutty, but nowadays, I let my mind and body peacefully discuss things all the time.
My body is very chatty now. Most of our lives, we give our minds full control over everything; but the mind takes and processes information from the outside environment. It is more important that we listen to the body’s stored memories and functions and trust that information. It is important to learn how to listen, to begin with.
The body is older and wiser than we think it is, and it has been waiting to give us all this advice and be allowed to take care of us. I have been discovering so many things about my monthly cycles, too, which I will go into in another post. With openness and understanding, we can begin to recognize and honor that our body is one unique moving part of creation and is ours to make friends with and not to hide or control.
It is the the company we keep. It is our ally. It is our home.
Sit. Lie down. Breathe.
Make your bed and make yourself comfortable.