I’m puzzled that we’ve come to associate the body with shame. We’ve come to view our body as something rather foreign, when it is something we ought to be as intimate with as we possibly can. Along with the brain, it is possibly the most awe-worthy thing about our existence, yet one of the biggest sources of responsibility.
The body is like a helpless child – a fragile treasure that must constantly be cared for, nurtured, and carefully watched over by Mother Brain. We are at odds with its power and what it can do to us if we left it to its own devices. Without a watchful guardian, it would fall apart – slowly, but surely, and can be difficult to turn around. Muscles atrophy, leaving nothing to support the bones and organs. Fat would move in and make itself at home, cluttering up your body. And then the power shifts – instead of you having control over your body, it starts to control you. You move in accordance with what your body wants and not what you want your body to do. You become sleepy during the day yet sleepless at night; you become irritable, constantly feeling out of control; and worse yet, you begin to hate it.
But even despite the natural aging process, the body has an amazing ability to adapt. When you start to lift heavy objects, it responds: “You want to lift heavy things, I’ll give you muscles to make it easier!” When you start to run regularly, it responds: “You want to be fast? Let me craft you a more robust heart!” When you stretch, it responds: “You want flexibility? I’ll tweak the stretch receptors to limit the painful reflexes!” Of course, you should be gentle with it at first rather than jumping in at full speed – it is, after all, a fragile child. Then, as you see change, you’ll be able to gradually push yourself more and more, and then you can just keep marveling at how amazing it is that you really can do what you never thought you could do.
Bodily movement in any form – swimming, working out, dancing, playing sports, running, martial arts, yoga, acrobatics – they are all a form of bodily celebration – a celebration of freedom, in a way, as artists and athletes test the horizons of the human body. So, take care of your body, and explore your own ways of celebrating it. Play a sport, jump on the beach, sleep naked, do yoga, breathe deeply. Feel it, listen to it, look at it – it’s yours for life, and no one else’s. Cherish it and it will love you back.