I'm not gonna lie: titles like the one I just wrote usually make me want to hurl. It sounds rather hippie-dippy to me, and I've lived in New York City for far too long, and am just jaded enough that such phrases make me auto-roll my eyes. But, but, if I think about what it actually means to "honor one's body," and apply it contextually to where I am right now, the eye-rolling ceases, and I can easily connect the sentiment to my current wellness practice.
Growing up, I was a dancer. I shoved my feet into the unforgivingly hard and scratchy boxes of pointe shoes and contorted my body into all sorts of seemingly impossible positions for the sake of aesthetic appeal and for the art of the dance(!). Now I loved dancing and relish many of the memories associated with that part of my life, but I am still recovering from some of the physical damage I inflicted upon myself during those years. As a dancer, you are frequently taught to "push past the pain," to endure it for the sake of the art (and at the behest of your teachers and choreographers). What they don't tell you at those tender formative years when most people start dancing (which can begin as early as age 2 or 3) is that though your body may be malleable and able to recover from the physical demands in the easy-breezy pliability of your youth, in the long run, you may well end up with chronic physical pain. To this day, my lower back curses me for the years I spent abusing it by leaping and bounding about on the tippy-tips of my toes.
Learning to stop abusing my body is a constant challenge, but it is one that I am committed to taking. Shortly after I stopped dancing, I picked up distance running-- another wonderful way to inflict pain on oneself if that is what one is accustomed to doing. And sure enough, I pushed myself through many long runs that I shouldn't have, often ran faster than my body was capable of supporting, and even attempted to run through some injuries, with disastrous results. It took a while (and is still an ongoing practice), but I now have a pretty good understanding of my limitations and am learning, day-by-day, when to say, "Enough is enough." Perhaps this means that when I'm training for a marathon, I stray from the formal training regimen I've chosen for that particular race (thus challenging another bad habit-- my perfectionism, which can also be crippling), or maybe it means I take a rest day when, according to the plan, I'm supposed to be running, but I have to be OK with that, because, as I've learned time and time again, pushing my body beyond it's limits only hurts me in the end (quite literally).
Last night, when I went to bed, I'd planned to do an arm workout, interspersed with high intensity drills when I woke up. But this morning I felt pretty sore and a bit achy from the leg workout I'd done yesterday. "Ugh," I thought to myself, "this is going to feel rough." That's my auto-programming; even though I felt crappy, my first thought was still to push through. But, then, my second thought was that I ought to honor my body's current needs, and do some hip-opening yoga and deep stretching. Yes, I thought to myself. That feels and sounds right. And so today, I took a yoga class, and not only is my body much happier with my choice, but so too is my mind. Constantly pushing yourself past your limits takes a toll on the mind as well, and can lead to feelings of irritability and resentment (and who needs those?)
We live in a society where we are constantly told to "do more," "be better," "challenge your limits," and "go, go, go." Certainly discipline and challenging oneself have their place, but I think we too often ignore the subtle requests from our bodies and minds for the sake of appeasing unrealistic expectation. And so, I'm deepening my conviction towards paying closer attention to what it is that my body, mind, and soul truly need; and hope that you, too, can be just a little kinder and gentler towards yourself. And one day, perhaps I can immediately accept sentiments like "honor your body," with grace and a smile rather than an auto-eyeroll.