Women’s bodies are too often objectified, commodified, over-sexualized, and sold. We are told that beauty is that of airbrushed skin and proportions; style is what’s hot on the market. So we devalue our bodies. Whether it’s hiding behind baggy clothes or displaying what we got in heels and push up bras, our focus is often too visual. We need to shift our focus to health and strength – first personally, then socially. I want to share some of my musings on bodily self care as a way to combat objectification of the body.
A friend from home came to visit a couple weekends ago. He arrived on campus and played basketball at the gym with strangers before I met up with him on the row. When I found him, he was shirtless and sweaty, wearing hiking boots and work out pants. I didn’t know it at the time, but it turned out that our weekend together would be all about the body. We talked about our bodies, moved them, stretched them, nourished them, played with them, and loved them. Thanks to my weekend with my friend, I was able to contextualize various bits of my habits and daily regimens, and realize that body care is a priority for me. I probably won’t start playing ball with strangers or walking around shirtless, but my weekend of bodily self care reminded me that my body is central to all that I do, and that it should be cherished in a healthy manner. The stronger I feel, the more confident I am, and the less I give in to social objectification.
- Stretching: I try to stretch every day, even on busy days. We did a group stretch session with my housemates and it was incredibly rewarding because we got to share skills, do partner stretches, and swap massages at the end.
- Massages: These can happen anywhere, anytime. My friend gave me one while we were at a baseball game! Apply concentrated pressure. Ask for feedback. The recipient will tell you where it hurts, what feels good, what needs attention. Massage the face (we build up a lot of tension here), stretch arms, use massage oil.
- Movement: I always say that school is bad for me because I spend so much time in a chair. I try to make up for it by standing while watching a video or stretching while reading. Even better, though, is making time each day to go for a walk, jog, bike ride, or trip to the gym. Even little dance parties with friends or a five minute break for jumping jacks can get the blood flowing. I’ve found that, the more I move, the more energized I am.
- Sleep: Prioritize it! I used to feel that any time I spent asleep was time missing out on something else (a cool party, an important book, etc.) but a back injury I suffered last winter forced me to sleep in order to heal. It was a gift in disguise, because I came to value sleep as fuel for my body. I began writing down my dreams every morning, and, thanks to the journaling, they’ve become vivid and detailed in my memory. Even if I am missing a great event to sleep, I’m having a valuable dream adventure on my own.
- Core: When I hurt my back, I had to do a lot of physical therapy. The body part we focused on most was my core. I’ve continued to workout my core more than any other body part because it supports my back, as well as the rest of my body. Supermans and certain yoga poses are some of my favorites.
- Nourishment: I have too many friends here at school who say, at 7pm, “I haven’t eaten anything yet today.” They say it’s not purposeful, it’s that they’re too busy. And, being a college student myself, I believe it. But I am willing to get to a meeting late to grab a bowl of yogurt and a piece of fruit. I am often the one noisily munching on a sandwich in class. If I’m not fed, I’m low energy and cranky. Make an effort to carve out those 10 or 15 minutes to feed yourself.
- Tea: I drink at least 2 cups a day, using it to relax and energize. A housemate recently began drinking 6 cups a day because she read a study saying that 6 cups reduces stress substantially. Who knows if that’s true, but no harm in upping your yummy steamy water intake!
I dream of a world where openness and compassion are prevalent, and where we are all proud to rock any outfit. I am tired of the media pushing for just the opposite. But I am not going to spend my energy on changing such a massive system. Instead, I’m going to care for my body to strengthen myself and to maximize the positive impact I can have on others. I’m excited to start reading Full Catastrophe Living: Using the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain, and Illness, by Jon Kabat-Zinn, Ph.D. My friend who visited the other weekend was reading it, and I expect to gain mind and body care techniques from the book. A recent audio recording of the book can be found here.
Beautiful You, the book I mentioned in my post on polyamory and self love, states that love for your body is a metaphor for your love for yourself. Caring for your body is valuing YOU.
For some physical inspiration check out this video on calisthenics. The Bartendaz are based in New York City and do most of their workouts in free facilities – parks! I couldn’t find my favorite video with kids beastin’ it but this one is pretty cool.
Written by Magdalena Kaluza