If you’re like many of us who are spending more time than ever scrolling through social media while sheltering in place and practicing social distancing, you’ve probably seen the memes encouraging us to spend this time working on getting our “summer bodies.”
I know just how it is to feel pressured into working on a “summer body.” I started my wellness journey attempting to squeeze into the boxes of society’s normative ideals. I used my weight to measure my worth until I realized I wanted to stop suffocating myself and truly focus on the gift of being alive. I no longer had space to be in a continual battle with myself. From this place I embraced being a plus-size athlete and started doing what I love, like running half-marathons, dancing, cycling, and yoga. My passion for holistic wellness translated to wanting others to see themselves represented and affirmed so I cofounded BK Yoga Club, a body positive yoga studio in Brooklyn.
Over the years I’ve come to realize that quick fixes—crash diets and intense, unpleasant (to me) daily workouts—yield temporary results and, in the long run, make me feel worse, not better. My time is better spent focusing on growing sustainable habits to improve my overall quality of life without the anxiety.
In fact, when we approach our movement journey through a body-positive lens, we give ourselves permission to find gratitude in the present moment. We can let go of self-criticism or punishment as the thing that drives or motivates us. From this place we are no longer working out from a weight-centered approach and we are now choosing to focus on what we’re gaining as we get more in touch with ourselves.
Of course, all this is easier said than done. But with some introspection and work, it’s possible to let go of the focus on weight and center your movement practice on something more rewarding. One way to work toward this is by using intention to guide the decisions you make about how you work out.
I’ve seen a lot of people and brands putting on the pressure to work out more, eat less, and basically come out of this quarantine with a body that fits into normative expectations of health and beauty. If you’re looking for something to motivate you or challenge you right now, that’s GREAT (and relatable!). But instead of taking the cues from influencers or brands that might not share your interests, values, or goals, why not source that motivation by tuning into what you want to do and what your body needs?
If you’re thinking about starting (or continuing) your movement practice during the pandemic but you’re feeling pulled in many different directions about what to do, here are three questions to ask yourself that will help you implement an exercise routine from a place of self-love instead of self-critique.
1. What type of movement brings me joy?
When we connect to movement because we enjoy it, exercise can make us feel energized, vital, strong, and confident. For just a moment, ask yourself: What movement brings me joy? Allow yourself time to come up with answers that include off-the-beaten-path options. Sure, it could be walking in nature or taking a yoga class. But it can also be having a Zoom dance party with friends or doing cartwheels in your backyard. Now is the time to get creative and center on the things that bring you joy! If you can find even one movement that makes you feel energized and powerful, you’re on the right track.
As for me, the pose that makes me feel most energized and in my body is Warrior 2. Warrior 2 activates the fire within while preparing your thighs, core, and upper body for a dynamic yoga flow. If I’m ever feeling less than confident, Warrior 2 is an opportunity to center myself from the ground up while unapologetically being in my body. And by the way, if you want to work out in a group but mainstream workout classes make you feel self-conscious or unwelcome, try a workout led by a body-positive instructor or at a body-positive studio (like my studio, BK Yoga Club!).
2. How do I want to feel?
If you’re fortunate enough to be able to ask yourself these questions during this time it may lead you to think more deeply about what being well in your body truly means. There is so much pressure in our culture to overproduce—to work late, to exercise long, to diet extra hard, to grind. But if we mute the chatter and focus on what our bodies are asking from us, what would we hear? Is your body asking you to build strength or for a vigorous walk? Is it asking for an intense sweat or an extra long nap? Stopping to ask yourself how you want to feel can lead you to a movement practice that feels good and productive.
3. What words can I say to my body more?
Body positivity isn’t about feeling 100 percent about our bodies all the time, it’s about exploring more ways to practice self-acceptance on the journey. What would it look like if we thanked our bodies for being alive, breathing, and supporting us throughout the many seasons of life? Give yourself permission to replace negative thoughts—or at least answer them—with affirmations. We all deserve to shower ourselves with compassion even on days we don’t feel worthy. Some things you can try saying to yourself:
- My weight doesn’t determine my worth.
- It’s okay if I don’t always feel confident. I am worthy simply because I exist.
- I’m grateful for my wellness journey and choosing to fall in love with the journey of moving my body.
There are so many external messages profiting off our self-loathing, so choosing to practice body positivity in movement is a radical act. And it’s not about trying to arrive once and for all at the final destination of body-positive enlightenment. But committing to practicing self-acceptance on days when we don’t feel like it is the first step. The more we put these concepts into practice, the more we are able to interrupt those false narratives that a particular frame makes us more acceptable.
For just this season during quarantine, take at least 10 minutes of your day to be with what it means to be alive, breathing, and moving!