Recently, a client came up to me and thanked me for saying something nice about her feet the last time we met. I don’t know exactly what I said, but I gather it was along the lines of “They’re your feet so send them messages of love instead of disappointment. They’ll receive those messages and respond in kind.” She feels very self conscious about her feet that have been through several traumas and no longer look the standard way.
I do think we should love our feet, regardless of the shape their in. I see all kinds of feet in my profession–with warts, crossing toes, cracking heels, bunions, fungus, wacky toenails. It doesn’t bother me. Foot, feet, just another foot. We stand on them. We neglect them. We stuff them into socks and shoes most of the time. They don’t get enough air time or massages, especially for those of use who live in colder climates. We lose muscle tone and mobility in the toes. I spend time with people’s feet, asking them to notice how they’re standing on them, connecting to the earth. I ask them to use their foot muscles fully to strengthen them so we can stand erect, keep our ankles, knees and hips healthy, and ground ourselves.
If not the feet, maybe you have another part of the body that you’re at war with. Maybe you don’t like your face, your weight, your gray hair, your blotchy skin, your asthmatic lungs, your arthritic hands. This becomes very difficult if we’re troubled by disease, disorder, or injury. What if we sent good wishes and support into ourselves like a get well card? What if we love the pain as a reminder that we are here on this fabulous planet in these fabulous bodies–whatever their abilities?
When I was training to become a yoga teacher my teacher said that he spent the majority of his teaching time helping people to love their bodies. What if we did just stop sending the negative messages and start a love affair with our physical form? I don’t mean anything weird or kinky, but what if we looked at our own bodies in the way we look at a beloved relative or friend? We love the way their hair falls and the way their eyes are asymmetrical and the turn of their chin. If we say loving things to those people, if we treat them with kindness and compassion and respect and understanding, we cultivate a deeply satisfying bond. We cultivate compassion and loving kindness. What if that other person was ourselves? Wouldn’t the same thing happen?
Louise Hay recommends in one of her books that we practice looking into the mirror and telling ourself “I love you.” I have to say that I have never felt comfortable doing that. Not because I don’t love and respect myself, I do, but because of this whole idea of body image. I have always had a hard time identifying my own image as a reflection of me. There are all these conflicting images in my head–the me that I feel like, the me that commercialism and society says I should be striving for, and the actual vision I see which never seems to look the same twice–that I have a hard time reconciling. I look at my image, and it doesn’t quite feel like “me.” Maybe that is a disassociation syndrome or a function of my psyche or something to do with my poor vision, I don’t know, but if I say “I love you” to that image, I don’t feel the connected sincerity I would feel if I just said it another time. It feels fake-y and forced.
However, I like the idea of the practice, and maybe if I persist in it more than once in a while, maybe I will start to connect that image I see with a beloved being of mine–not to create an egomaniac or Narcissus, but to just send love to myself, with my asymmetrical eyes, blotchy skin, messy hair, imperfect beautiful self. And maybe too, when that loving image starts to sink in deeply, I might start to deeply realize the truth of the words I say during Savasana “Bring your attention to your breath right here right now in your absolutely perfect body, nothing more to do.”