Eight things I Learned from 50 Naked People.

Via on Sep 22, 2011



In the past year, I’ve touched more than 50 naked people.

Don’t worry though—the fancy parts were covered—I’m a massage therapy student. They have you start on friends and family, other students and then the general public. Some people are silent during a massage; others can’t stop talking in a nervous attempt to clothe themselves with something, even if only words.

Despite our obsession with sex, American culture doesn’t really encourage nakedness (physically or emotionally). And if all the pleasantries and social constructs we use weren’t bad enough, we add social media into the mix and distance each other even further. When we’re naked and silent, all of that falls away. What I learn from what a person tells me is minuscule compared to what I learn by feeling his skin, muscle and bone. By watching him move. By listening to his breath. By feeling his pulse. So, in case you didn’t know:

1. Your body doesn’t lie. You might say, “I’m relaxed!” or, “That pressure is great, you can work deeper,” but your body may tell a very different story. What goes on in your muscles, with your breathing, with your pulse is the truest you: the you that even you might not know yet. It’s a good thing to get in touch with. You’d feel much better if you listened and let your words match up to what your body was saying.

2. When you stretch, you open up space.  This is physically true, and emotionally true. When you physically stretch (or allow yourself to be stretched) you create space and allow for greater movement, greater vulnerability and more growth. It’s the same when you stretch yourself emotionally, too. Your physical and emotional selves aren’t separate––stretch one, and you usually stretch the other, too. It isn’t always comfortable at first, but it’s a wonderful thing. Surrender to it. You won’t regret it.

3. That thing you’re embarrassed about? That you don’t want anyone to see? That you tense up and hold your breath over? The part of you that you wish were different? It’s okay. Let go. Enjoy it. It’s part of what makes you so beautiful.

4. Everyone has body hair in various places and amounts. There’s no one right amount. It’s all good. Same goes for moles. Even models don’t look like they do in the pictures. Smooth and hairless is a Madison Avenue invention designed to create discontent (and sell grooming products).

5. Everything you’ve experienced is stored in your body at a cellular level. Each cell is a record of all of it. I’ve felt it in your skin. Being born. Being held. The time you fell off your bike and weren’t that hurt but very scared. That brutal sunburn on your shoulders at 14. The time you fell out of a tree and broke your collarbone. The first time you felt deeply loved. The person who hurt you so badly you thought you were broken for good. Your muscles remember it. They remember it like it happened 10 minutes ago.

Your successes hold your shoulders high. Your losses pull your chest inward. You hold your sadness in your throat, your anger in your jaw and your fear in your belly. Your happiness rises and falls in your chest. Love rolls in and out on the tides of your breath. It’s all there, all the time. {You can release the parts that hurt, if you want to. Yoga and massage are the best ways I’ve seen.}

6.   Your weight is the least interesting thing about you. I promise.

7.   Your skin, however, is fascinating. Every line, every freckle, every scar tells the amazing stories of your life. Please don’t Botox, bleach or sand it all away. They’re all beautiful.

8.   Your body is a f*cking wonderland. You are amazing just as you are, right now.

 

Relephant:

What People Really Look Like. 

Bonus:

massage

 

About Kate Bartolotta

Kate Bartolotta is the strongest girl in the world. She is the love child of a pirate and a roller derby queen. She hails from the second star to the right. Her love of words is boundless, but she knows that many of life’s best moments are completely untranslatable. When she is not writing, you may find her practicing yoga, devouring a book, playing with her children, planting dandelions, or dancing barefoot with her heart on her sleeve. She is madly in love with life and does not know how this story ends; she’s making it up as she goes. Kate is the owner and editor-in-chief of Be You Media Group. She also writes for The Huffington Post, elephant journal, The Good Men Project, The Green Divas, Yoganonymous, The Body Project, Project Eve, Thought Catalog and Soulseeds. She facilitates writing workshops and retreats throughout North America. Heart Medicine, Kate's book on writing, is now available on Amazon.com You can follow Kate on Facebook and Twitter

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218 Responses to “Eight things I Learned from 50 Naked People.”

  1. [...] Don’t worry though—the fancy parts were covered—I’m a massage therapy student. They have you start on friends and family, other students and then the general public. Some people are… read more [...]

  2. thislittlelark says:

    Thank you for sharing this thoughtful piece! As a massage therapist and chinese medicine student, I am constantly in awe of the human body and each story it tells. Blessings to you! :)

  3. Rod and Lee says:

    A very inspiring blog. I especially related to #5. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

  4. Kate says:

    LOL if this is true then why is the article illustrated with yet another image of a waif who has the hips of an 8 year old? Pfffft. Cute idea but the image invalidates the message completely.

    • I would argue that it doesn't at all. People who are anorexic have as many (if not more) insecurities about their bodies as those who are "average" or overweight. I wrote this article after working on an anorexic woman and an obese woman back to back–both apologized for their bodies and it broke my heart.

  5. Sarah says:

    Kate,

    I love this! I too am an MT! Your words are SO true! I am also a vegan, and have been charged (and found guilty of over use of the !) Thank you for sharing.

  6. Jo-Anne says:

    The picture you include is a girl who has no imperfections, skin or weight issues or otherwise… this is contradicting, and yet, it sells.

    • As I mentioned in above comments: I would argue that it doesn't at all. People who are anorexic have as many (if not more) insecurities about their bodies as those who are "average" or overweight. I wrote this article after working on an anorexic woman and an obese woman back to back–both apologized for their bodies and it broke my heart.

  7. Regan Jean Coussan says:

    I just shared this blog on Facebook, and thought I might share my remarks here, if I may.

    Interesting article, courtesy of a friend. There is a whole lot of truth in what she has to say, the main points if nothing else are very important in what we do. After all, there are very, very few medical practitioners who will get to know a person's body better than an LMT. It is worth reading.

    I should say that the writer might be treading the edge with the picture, remarks about "It’s part of what makes you so beautiful." and "Your body is a f*cking wonderland. You are amazing just as you are, right now," among others. Not because the sentiments are bad or even wrong, but because it can be so easily misconstrued.

    But, she is a student, her outlook is good, and she is obviously aiming this at people, probably fellow students or friends, who are self-conscious. Good for her. And frankly, when one is working on, and being worked on by, several people a week, the concept of personal space flies out of the window a bit at first, though we all are trained and try very hard to maintain the professional distance and courtesy.

    Just ask my wife sometime about the first evening we met, six years ago: In my enthusiasm, I took her hands after showing our mutual friend what I had been learning without thinking, never knowing that she was uncomfortable with strangers touching her. She jokes now that only her knowledge that people with poor eyesight are often tactile saved me from getting bonked on the nose. :-) It is funny now, but it was also a very valuable lesson.

    All of that said, the writer's sensitivity is extremely good; I have no doubt that she will be a fine therapist. That level of reassurance that the writer is giving will be good as she goes along and gains experience, and she definitely has a good sense of the body. A person should hope for a massage therapist with that level of empathy and knowledgeability. I wish her very well.

    • True…and I would not make those statements to a client directly because it would cross major boundaries and be inappropriate! These are my reflections on what I wish people knew about themselves. Thanks for your thoughts.

  8. brandiebroihier says:

    You are far more than a mediocre writer. Your bio is beautiful, don't say that!

  9. Elizabeth says:

    The writing is beautiful. Too bad the photo at the beginning undermines at least half of the tidbits of wisdom…

    • Nope. Not a bit. I've mentioned in earlier comments, but self-loathing and body image issues are not restricted to those who are overweight. I was the least comfortable in my body when I was the most underweight.

  10. Rosemary Stokes says:

    enjoyed the read !! I am taking nice breaths, stretching and considering a message is much needed thank you
    !!

  11. Michelle says:

    Wonderful piece. It was actually really touching.

    I don’t understand why some of the commenters bring up the picture being in contradiction to the writing. She writes that all bodies are beautiful. It’s not meant to be a comfort to only the overweight people, it’s a statement for ALL people. I have friends that are thinner than me and who I consider to be prettier that are more self-concious than I am. I have friends who are heavier than me who have WAY more self confidence than I do. Body image is a matter of self-perception. The image in no way undermines the article.

  12. Becky G. says:

    I am a massage therapist as well and what was said in the article above is true!! There is alot you can find out from a persons body threw massage..

  13. [...] “Your weight is the least interesting thing about you.” Things a massage therapist has learned. As a former massage therapist, I loved this article and agreed wholeheartedly. [...]

  14. Heath Oates says:

    These are delicate, powerful words. Like a good massage. Thank you.

  15. Radha says:

    I hope this article is a start to many massage therapists opening up about what we, yes I am one too, find and experience in a massage session… this could be the beginning of a really cool conversation!!!! Bravo!!

  16. Melissa says:

    #5 had me in tears. Reading it made me feel cradled, loved, human, connected, understood. Thank you for your honest, graceful words. <3

  17. Toni says:

    Kate-thank you..you post was so beautiful, it brought tears to my eyes..and relief to my heart..

  18. h4x354x0r says:

    I love the message! I'm no masseuse; rather, a hard-core athlete. I've come to understand almost all of this for myself; that my body is absolutely f'ing incredible, beautiful, and entirely and completely lovable. Not only that, but what I've learned to do with my body gives me almost indescribable joy.

    But… I've never before heard that my muscles can tell stories about things I've been through years ago. Now I'm intensely curious about what my muscles might have to say. I want them to talk! It's like this tantalizing glimpse of a newfound voice, of another way for my soul to express itself and find freedom. I want this woman to give me a massage, and give a new voice to my body that Iv'e never heard before. I feel like I've just taken another bite of the fruit of knowledge, and it only makes me hungrier.

    Thank you for the enlightenment.

  19. C says:

    Lovely essay, and I agree with you that there is NOTHING wrong with the photo associated with it. Thin women DO exist and we’re not all unhealthy or suffering from eating disorders. I’m 5’2″, 95 lbs, and hourglass shaped, and I rather like myself. I also know a lot of perfectly beautiful overweight women. Acceptance of all body types means letting go of your bitterness not just towards what you don’t like about your own body but also towards those of whom you are jealous.

  20. ginia A Davis says:

    I appreciated your words. “When you stretch, you open up space”…particularly made me do so right here in my seat…and it made a difference…I felt better. And it made me think. People need reminding…like to stretch…and another good one…to BREATH. People forget to breath deeply…to breath from the belly and fill the body with the much needed oxygen.
    Thanks for the reminder.
    Thanks for reminding people that they are more alike (in their feelings) than they are different, even though they may “look” different (that one, at my age, I already knew very well).
    Thanks mostly for being a particularly wonderful human being and continuing to voice the words which are needed to hear (from your perspective).

    From another human being on the face of the earth…”I see you” and I say “yes!”

  21. Maureen says:

    I've been a massage therapist for 23 years and I LOVED this article. It's so cool that you have so much insight right out of the gate. Rock on Sista ! You are going to be great !!

  22. Spirit Fire says:

    Thank you for all of that. Knitting w/ needles can be tricky as getting the tension just right can be infuriating. Try breathing space into your knitting too (litterally into the little holes as you create them). Alternately you can switch to a knitting board – it has pegs in a piece of wood or plastic and you loop your yarn and then pull one loop through another with a small hook. It's fantastic because you can set it down and you won't lose your place and the spacing is always the same. Good luck w/ your creative endeavors. Om Namah Shivaya.

    • Hah! I have tried to learn to knit for years and it always results in me swearing and throwing things. I think I have enough stuff that I love that I don't do nearly often enough–I'll pass on the knitting for now.

      Thanks though!

  23. lori B says:

    LOVE LOVE LOVE the content but wonder, as i often do: WHY choose such a conventional looking thin/young/model/waif female as the photographic image for a piece about how diverse and amazing every unique BODY is? just a matter of expanding our awareness, reaching for something fresh and challenging perhaps.
    thanks again for a great piece.

    • Because we all have body issues… The post came about after I had two clinic clients back to back—one anorexic, one obese—who both apologized for their bodies. It broke my heart. To be honest, I hated my body the most when it looked like Lindsey Lohan's there…learned to love it & treat it gently. Loved it pregnant, love it now—strong, but with softness. I think it's important to remember that every single kind of body is beautiful. Big or small or in between.

      Glad you enjoyed & that's my 2 cents on the picture!

  24. Radha says:

    and as a massage therapist myself can I add " and I don't care if your legs are shaved….. " lol

  25. Carrue says:

    Really???? Think again. What about clients with alopecia….look it up.

  26. Jacqueline says:

    As a yoga teacher, I feel the same way, we can sometimes see all those things, sometimes I feel like I keep so many people's secrets close to my yoga teacher heart. Don't worry, your secret is safe with me.

  27. [...] massage therapist’s take on why you should feel good about your body: “Your successes hold your shoulders high. Your losses pull your chest inward. You hold your [...]

  28. [...] We’re moms, daughters, big, small, young, old, and we are beautiful. [...]

  29. [...] beliefs. I’ll take my own advice here re: Scorpion). Take an art class or run around the house naked or combine the two and become a life model for an art class (hey, they pay pretty well for that [...]

  30. Juan says:

    First, I must say that it causes me incredible pain and suffering when I see comments, as above, referring to licensed massage therapists as “medical practitioners.” For whatever benefits there are to.massage therapy, and however pleasant it feels, the practice is exactly what the title suggests, a form of therapy. Under no circumstances is massage therapy a “medical practice” and to even begin to suggest that a massage therapy license is even remotely as substantial as an M.D. is nonsense and arrogance of the highest degree. Again, with respect to the art of massage therapy, the licensing required for the discipline is nowhere near as rigorous as a B.S. degree in physiology. That said, to put the holder of a massage therapy license on the same level with an individual who has spent 8-10 years and tens, if not hundreds of thousands of.dollars studying the complicated science of medicine is, I’ll say one last time, the highest arrogance.

    That said, I appreciate the spirit of this article. It is important to remember that each of us is an imperfect animal. And the human body, naked, is certainly an excellent reminder of egalitarian frailty of the human condition.

  31. [...] A massage therapist tells us the 8 things she learned from looking at 50 naked people. [...]

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  33. Denelle says:

    I have thought all of these things at least once while working on a client. As massage therapists, we have a unique opportunity to work on, and to see, every body type out there. People ask all the time if I get "grossed out" by someone on my table. How could I? God's handiwork is right in front of me and my focus is on listening to the body and helping it to heal and feel better. What a great privilege!

  34. allison says:

    this is beautiful! i just got done talking with friends about how important it is to pay attention to little movements in your body and learning to truly and fully let your body relax! thank you for adding to my current point of view :)

  35. [...] Eight Things I learned from 50 Naked People | elephant journal. This entry was posted in reread later, Things to Think About. Bookmark the permalink. ← [...]

  36. Too true! We all need to take the time to Breathe and Relax :) Great writing, aloha…

  37. Laura Kay says:

    Don't the first words of the article "don't worry" just reinforce societal fear of nakedness? I enjoy my naked, and yes, bald, skin. I celebrate it in my photography. I'd love to photograph you. :)

  38. Zetta Juell says:

    Great post. I used to be checking continuously this weblog and I’m impressed! Extremely useful info specifically the ultimate section I maintain such info much. I used to be looking for this particular info for a very long time. Thank you and good luck.

  39. and now yoga says:

    Subtle, beautiful and truthful reading of the body … put in words. Thank you!

  40. Dace says:

    Lovely article.

  41. [...] Below is lovely article from another massage therapist that was published last fall on elephantjournal.com [...]

  42. [...] “Your weight is the least interesting thing about you.” Things a massage therapist has learned. As a former massage therapist, I loved this article and agreed wholeheartedly. [...]

  43. [...] case you didn’t already know, it wasn’t your thighs or your arm jiggle. That’s just in your pretty little head. It wasn’t that annoying hormonal breakout you had last [...]

  44. [...] hide from me. Don’t hide your insecurities or your failures, because what you think are inadequacies, are your sexy parts. If you don’t like your nose, your pectorals or your thinning hair, then I’m gonna love those [...]

  45. Robert says:

    Thanks Kate, I needed that. Heart massage. :) <3

  46. [...] 8 things a massage therapist learned from 50 naked people [...]

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