Long ago, in a land far away (OK, right here, a bit before Thanksgiving), I drafted a post about body gratitude, asking readers when they last took the time to thank their bodies for carrying them through life. I didn’t post it. I wanted to add something. Not sure quite what, but I was inspired by a yoga class I took months and months ago, when the teacher knew someone who was transitioning out of this life at the time that class was taught, and she threaded her reflections through class in a beautiful and vulnerable way that left me feeling more grateful than I had ever felt to have a body.
I had this in mind, this gratitude for life and limb and mortal coil, when another, very treasured and deeply loved yoga teacher passed away suddenly, and there was deep shock, collective grief, and the blogging words got stuck.
I will post another time, as I have in bits and pieces previously, about the things that I learned from ChiChi. There were a lot of lessons, about perseverance and hard work and deep compassion, all balanced by his particular brand of levity and joy. He was one of the first people to nudge me along on the path of yoga, which has been a great and central component of my happiness and health.
There is so much to say, and so much has been said already, uttered in classes and memorials and parties, written on the studio walls and in books, by way of honoring and celebrating and thanking.
And so I come back to this, to gratitude. Grateful for my brush with a terrific teacher. Grateful for the people still around me. Grateful for my own body, even in its aches and pains. I’m glad to have one. I hope you are, too. The Thanksgiving post feels relevant all year long.
Relevant, especially, as other winter holidays are afoot. We’re in the shortest days right now, many of us huddling close to loved ones or feeling estrangement and loneliness more acutely than usual (or both! There are no rules with these things). There’s a lot of darkness. All the better, I’d say, to celebrate the constant, your feet as carriage, your body as friend.
Here you go:
When Was the Last Time?
With Thanksgiving coming right up, and with it no doubt a slew of gratitude posts on social media and elsewhere, I want to know: When was the last time you gave thanks for your body?
I hear a lot of complaints, and rightly so. As a massage therapist, it’s my job to help ease aches and pains, and knowing what and where they are is imperative. So I ask what hurts, and I ask what’s wrong, and later on ask if things are feeling better. But I don’t typically ask “what’s great about your body today?” No doubt, many things are going right, but in this culture of seeking improvement, we tend to talk a lot about what’s going wrong.
We all do it. I complain sometimes myself. Not sure what happened in that last yoga class that left my hamstrings so sore, or how exactly I tossed and turned in the night that created this lower back twinge. These things are all too noticeable, crying out with the first morning steps, so they spring to the forefront and become part of daily conversation.
But sometimes the complaints bleed into meanness. I hear woes, both personally and professionally, about chubby thighs and arm flab that border on apologies. I counteract it as best I can year-round, but I think we have a great opportunity as we approach this big day of Thanks, when we’re thinking about the things for which we are grateful, for roofs overhead and the people we love most, to love ourselves too, and to give thanks for that first, most constant home, the bodies that have carried us through each and every day.
So I want to know: when was the last time you thanked your body? Do you do it every day, grateful for the grace of moving feet, for hands that unfailingly remember your signature and the swift and easy spelling of thousands and thousands of words? Or do you forget, stuck in the whirl of modern life, caught in thought, or worse yet, plagued by pain that distracts from the good stuff? It happens to the best of us. It happens to all of us.
But I encourage you to shift it, if only for a moment. Try a gentle sway to your favorite song, or an all out dancefest. Take a challenging yoga class, or luxuriate in a lazy early morning stretch. Take a millisecond when running late to contemplate those sturdy legs of yours if you’re a walker, all the times your feet plant fast without falling. When talking to those loved ones of yours, hone in on the vibration of your own voice, the subtle hum it gives back to you, the most constant sound you’ve got.