Now that I’m 36 years old, I am able to accept many things about myself: I’m never going to be tall, I’m never going to master foreign languages, and I’m probably never going to master driving a stick shift.
However, until very recently, I was in denial about something very close to home: I am not very comfortable moving my body.
Acknowledging this comes as a bit of a shock. As a child, I took years of ballet, tap, and jazz. I practice and teach yoga for heaven’s sake. Therefore, I know I am capable of physically moving my body. (I actually happen to be naturally flexible, too.)
The truth is, I am not comfortable when it comes to moving my body in any sort of unchoreographed way.
A few years ago, I heard of a local conscious dance group that met regularly at the yoga studio were I taught. When I asked what it was and learned that it involved free movement, I decided pretty much on the spot it wasn’t for me. Nonetheless, I decided to try it. Despite the warmth of the community and the fact that I felt very much welcomed, it was not a positive experience for me. I remember being drenched with sweat afterwards and that sweat had nothing to do with any amount of heat that I worked up while dancing. I joked it should have been called self-conscious dance because I felt like all eyes were on me even though it was not the case at all.
I didn’t think that much about it until a few weeks ago when my regular Mysore teacher pointed out that I didn’t move my body unless I was told to do so. Without him even knowing it, he had found the reason for my discomfort: I am not used to doing things unless I am told. The idea of moving my body spontaneously scares me.
While I don’t claim to be a psychologist or even pretend to be one, I believe some of this goes back to being a girl and being raised in a household where I was told not to attract attention.
Keep your head down. Keep your affairs to yourself. Ask permission before you speak, leave the room, etc.
Even though I was physically small to begin with, I tried to make myself even smaller and therefore less noticeable.
For years, I literally walked around with my head down so much that I developed a hunch. The aches and pains I had in my lower back, neck, and shoulders eventually lead me to Alexander Technique, Pilates and massage, but I never seemed to be able to really find freedom in movement for very long.
It’s not just my movement that is stiff and awkward, but my body language is as well. This even shows in pictures.
When I see people who can spontaneously move their bodies like they don’t have a care in the world, I cannot help but feel a mixture of awe and envy.
I experience that feeling whenever I see my young daughter spontaneously move her body to music.
I wish I could say that this recent breakthrough inspired me to go back to conscious dance and I now move about as free as a leaf dancing on the wind but alas, that would be an enormous lie.
The truth is, I am probably never going to be that girl at the party who just starts dancing in the middle of the room awing everyone with her movement and unabashed joy. I am probably going to have some amount of self-consciousness. It’s okay, too. My goal isn’t to be a dancer.
Rather it is to start being a bit freer with my body.
It isn’t easy—the voice in my head tells me I look absurd, that everyone is going to laugh at me, etc.
I cannot drown that out. Instead of ignoring those thoughts, I now say, “So what? Is this going to harm me or anyone else if it happens?”
While the steps I am making in this process are still very small, at least I am taking them.
One day, I hope to be one of those women who takes up space and does not apologize for it. I want to be one of those people who moves freely and doesn’t fret over what others are thinking even though they probably aren’t thinking about me at all.
I do not know how long that will take, but at least I know that I don’t need to wait around for anyone’s permission to feel comfortable in my own body.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Editor: Bryonie Wise
Photo: Jeff Chandler/Pixoto