Shedding the Straitjacket and Befriending My Body
by Marie-Elizabeth Mali Nov 27, 2015
I’ve been getting radically deep bodywork this week, hoping to make progress on my tight hips. For the last 6 years, I've been stuck with chronic hip pain caused by working out too hard to remove the extra weight gained while in grad school with an undiagnosed thyroid disorder. I pushed myself to the extreme and eventually had a six-pack and a rocking body. But it came at the expense of my hips.
Aging as a woman in this culture is not for the faint of heart. The bodyworker nailed it: my body feels abandoned by me and I feel betrayed by my body. What’s needed is reconciliation and the promise that I will never be that willful toward it again. Given that I’ve barely been able to walk for the last three years, I’m happy to make that promise. Let the reconciliation begin.
Funny thing: within a year of beginning to OM I dropped ten pounds without thinking about it. No effort. As I began to fill up from within through OMing, my relationship to food re-calibrated. I now eat until full, no more. I no longer like feeling stuffed and don’t turn to food to ground or comfort myself. Because there is more energy running through my body I prefer to eat in a way that is filling, but not like an anvil in my gut.
The bodyworker moves my legs through small ranges of motion, opening the areas that froze when my body gave up on my ever listening to its needs. I growl and shout as he breaks up adhesions. I pant in relief when he pauses. I tell my hips that we’re safe, that it’s okay to let go and move again.
The old, driven way that I lived my life, run by willpower, is dying. I’m shedding that straitjacket and decades of cultural shame around being a sexual woman. My body in its restricted state is an accurate mirror of a way of life that no longer works for me. I’ve been a little slow to hear its message but I’m listening now. With each incremental opening in my hips comes a new level of surrender to being right where I am and listening to my body to guide my next steps in life.
Through OM I’ve learned to focus on sensations rather than gripping around pain. I’ve learned to hear its desires for specific kinds of movement, food, and rest. How energized and turned on my body feels — over how it looks — is what matters now.
I choose to move out of joy, not obligation. I walk slowly, feel the heat of shame rise when I can’t keep up with my friends, and let it pass through without holding on. I shush the voices that say I’m old and undesirable because of pain and immobility and focus instead on the sexy current of energy that runs through me. I relate to my body no longer from vanity but out of respect for what an accurate mirror it is of my inner state.
I spent the first half of my life privileging my mind and willpower over my body. Now it’s time to let my body lead. The more I OM, the more I experience my body’s innate intelligence, and the more willing I am to listen and learn.