‘There’s no such thing as a bad boob!’ This was the battle cry on Day 9 of my 11-day yoga immersion in Bali, as I sat in a semi-circle of women, all of us topless, painting and printing our breasts in funky colours and patterns. Now, I’m not a total prude (although I’m still British), but this was quite outside of what I’d consider a normal Sunday night’s activity. By now, however, we had danced and stamped and sung and yoged our way to a more appreciative understanding of our bodies. We had discussed all the things we knew deep down, about the lies we are sold in the name of capitalism, and the big money to be made on the epidemic of self-loathing. We had even done some group therapy and stripped away the masks we put on to diminish ourselves and be ‘accepted’, and we’d agreed that, really, there’s no such thing as a bad boob.
I had, tentatively, surrendered everything I thought I knew about the size and weight of my body when I was introduced to acro-yoga. This beautiful form requires two or more people to work together, using each other’s body weight to lift each other and ‘fly’ – it’s super fun. I was lifted and flown by women much smaller than me – an exercise that took a serious amount of trust and letting go, and no small amount of astonishment!
We’d also received a talk by a nutritionist called Kate Reardon, an Australian woman absolutely bursting with life. In just a couple of hours, she packed us with insights into the inner working of the digestive system, and interesting things started clicking into place. Learning that the majority of serotonin receptors are located in the small intestine was certainly food for thought – the state of my mood is directly linked to the state of my gut. And when they talk about ‘a gut feeling’, it’s not just a saying – this is the place where the body processes emotions that, ignored and undigested, can get stuck and fester. I realised how freaking hard my body is working for me every damn day – the very least I can do is start listening to it, and particularly to my second brain, my gut, my intuition.
Bex Tyrer’s ‘Freedom Through Movement’ philosophy, which she has been developing over two decades of study, is ultimately about finding true connection with your body and listening to it, opening the channels of communication and discovering the fullness of the self – that doesn’t solely exist in the ‘mind’ (with all those pesky thoughts), but in an incredibly complex web of bones and nerves and energy and hormones and emotions and all kinds of other stuff. Through yoga, we stripped back the rigidity of traditional asana practice and felt around for where our bodies wanted to stretch and move and unwind. Through dance and song we felt joyful and embodied, and through tantra, we thought about how our own bodies are a part of something much greater than us.
Because it’s beautiful to look around at the sky and the trees and the vastness of the sea, and to understand that I am part of all this. Every cell in my being is interconnected to all the cells in all the cosmos. I can see it in the way my veins look like rivers, which look like lightning, and in the way my wonky boob print looks like something from space. Everything we see and feel, it’s all cosmically connected. So if the flap of a butterfly’s wings can cause a tornado thousands of miles away, how careful do I need to be in the way I treat and think about my own body, and the nature of the energy I put into the world? One day this body will return to the earth, so who am I to fuck with it, to treat it with nothing but the respect I would treat another human body?
What truly struck me, somewhere along this journey, was the fundamental truth that my body is only one dimension of who I am. My body is simply the vehicle I have in which to take this brief journey, and the more I offer it love and respect and gratitude for what it does, the more joyful the drive will be. Which is why I’m learning to accept, appreciate and love my wonky, cosmic boobs.
I Am Not This Body
I am in this body,
I am of this body,
I am not this body.
I am not fat, but my body is big.
I am in this skin,
I am of this skin,
I am not this skin.
I glow with many colours, but my skin is pale.
I am behind these eyes,
I am of these eyes,
I am not these eyes.
I see dazzling light, but my pupils are dark.
I am full of blood,
I am of my blood,
I am not my blood.
I flow with life, and breath and strength, but my blood flows with the moon.
I have this heart,
I am of this heart,
I am not this heart.
Love is the pulse of my rhythm, but my heart. just. beats.