I saw the documentary “Embrace” recently. To say that it changed my life is not an exaggeration.
It’s about female body image.
It started when Taryn Brumfitt posted before and after pix on Facebook and they went viral, not because of how stunning her transformation was (though it was) but because of how real it was.
It went viral because she went against the norm. The before pic “should’ve” been the after and the after the before. She received thousands of responses. Some hateful and nasty because some people are just hateful and nasty. But most were beautiful and vulnerable and most were grateful to see somebody embracing their real body rather than shunning it and they wanted to know how they could do the same.
So, Taryn embarked on a journey and documented it to see how women around the world view their bodies. It was illuminating and heartbreaking. A word often uttered when asked to describe their body was “disgusting.” Not one woman liked one thing about her body.
Not one thing.
I don’t remember the first time I realized my body wasn’t good enough. I do remember a friend telling me to stop doing the locomotion in her basement because each time I hopped it felt like an elephant shaking the floor. I was twelve.
I remember a boy in the stands at a high school basketball game where I was a cheerleader calling me “thunder thighs.”
I remember pouring over issues of “Seventeen” yearning for the long, straight blonde hair that I saw. The thin thighs, slender calves and ankles.
I remember never feeling quite comfortable in my skin. Not only because of being bombarded constantly by media telling me that I needed to change my body but also because I think a part of me believed that it would be “conceited” to think I was enough just as I am. That I would be full of myself.
Since I’ve been practicing yoga, I’ve become much more comfortable in my own skin. I’ve grown to accept the way my body and energy fluctuate day to day, month to month, year to year. Because I try to practice yoga as a way of life, I’ve learned to practice santosha or contentment. It’s not about being happy all the time but being content in each moment as it arises, not needing to change it or fix it or resist it.
When it comes to my 51-year-old body, santosha is a blessing. It helps me to not merely accept my body (which I think implies that it is less than and I am just settling) but to embrace my body exactly as it is day to day, moment to moment.
Some days I feel strong and confident and head off my mat after a sweaty vinyasa ready to kick ass. Other days I curl up on the couch and that’s it. Santosha allows me to ride the waves of hormones as my body shifts, my mood meanders and my ability to sleep suddenly falls off a cliff.
Santosha allows me to feel content no matter what is happening in my body, to my body and around my body. It allows me to recognize that, contrary to decades of false beliefs and advertising saturation, I am not essentially lacking. It allows me to embrace and rejoice in all that I do, all that I am.