the other day i wrote about some of the realizations i took away from a local yoga class. i mentioned the ease of allowing the goodness in that the teacher encouraged and how her message was so timely for me. the pace of the class moved slowly through each asana which allowed me the time and space to breathe and connect more fully with my present state and with my body.
connecting with my body has been a focus for me in the last six months or so and one i continue to struggle with. i have a tendency, personally, to live in my mind more than my body and even to flee my physical body more often then not – floating away into the space right above me. if you are someone who is closely tied to your body you might have no idea what i am talking about but i have a feeling that i cannot be alone in my struggle.
a part of my recent dedication to working out has been about having a way to reconnect with my body. at times in my life, i have had the time to dedicate myself to a regular yoga practice which was a pleasure and did me a world of good. for some reason, this spring, pure yoga is not what called to me. i found myself loving the act of pushing myself through a cardio class at the gym – kicking, jumping, sweating, pulse racing, getting strong.
some of the work i have done in recent therapy, talking with and moving towards healing some of the hurt parts of my self has left me feeling like it is more possible for me to live in my body. but it still does not come naturally to me. i spend time breathing and calling myself to be more aware of how i am physically located in my flesh. i pull my self down towards my feet and encourage awareness of the body as a part of being present in the now.
in the yoga class the other day, as we slowly stretched ourselves into simple asanas i took a moment to invite myself more fully into my physical body. i was feeling alive in my body as i thought about how to move and position and i encouraged my spirit to come on home into this. the words that arose for me were simple, it is safe to come into your body now.
i was surprised at my emotional reaction to this word. i felt overwhelming sadness as i repeated the phrase, it is safe here. you can come into your body. nothing in this space can hurt you.
why would i not feel safe in my body?
as soon as the question arose i was in a scene. seventh grade and i am about twelve or thirteen years old. i am tall and thin and angular with none of the roundness anywhere on my body that i wish i would develop. i am in a black skirt that fits snugly from my waist down until it ends above my knees. i am also in a blue sweater that used to belong to my mom. it is a bright lapis lazul blue with a high neck and buttons down the back. i am in the small space that we have to use for free time at my school. i attend a private school and there are only twenty five of us in my grade. our “hang out” room has a couch that fits about four of us and a window alcove area, a small desk and a book shelf. it is across the hall from some teachers offices and it has two entrance/exit doors. both of which are supposed to stay open.
but in this moment neither door is open. i am the only girl in the room with three boys and they have found a way to jokingly surround me and get a few of my buttons undone. i am hot and worried about what is happening and thrilled that i am worthy of attention. i am looking down and someone’s hands are slipping through the undone button space at my back and around to touch the tiniest sprouting of breasts that i have. my cheeks are burning hot with shame about how small my breasts are and i am wishing for this moment to end somehow without it being awkward and without me messing anything up. the hands are there and gone so quickly and then a teacher is pushing the door open and telling us sternly that it should be open at all times and i have slid down onto the couch so my undone buttons don’t show.
you are safe in your body now.
this all must have happened before my first friend was raped. at least before i knew about my friends being raped. this was just a glimpse of the beginning of what being a woman would mean, in part. being a woman in a body that can be violated. being a girl growing into a woman’s body and hearing of all her friends bodies that have been violated. not knowing where the line between pleasure and violation lies yet. not knowing where the line between wanting to be desired and not wanting to be touched lies.
later that sweater was missing a button and i used to continue to wear it with a safety pin holding it closed instead. i don’t know when i lost the button. i don’t know why we didn’t sew a new one on. i don’t know why i loved that sweater so much. i can’t remember who closed it back up that day.
i know that a part of my work right now is coming back into my body. truly living there. i know that when i asked my spirit why it didn’t feel safe it took me back that far. to my own flushed cheeks and tight skirt and sweaty confusion. a moment i never would have thought i would remember so perfectly. i guess, a piece of me is still standing there wondering how to feel. she is probably a part of the group i am inviting back in. she is probably one of the girls who i am aiming to convince that i have things under control now and they don’t have to worry. i know lines. i don’t let lines get crossed anymore. i am a grown up woman. i am strong. i have power. i can keep us safe.
you may come home here. i have my voice. i know my spirit. we deserve to enjoy this body.
it is safe.