If I Said You Had A Beautiful Body… – Cheryl Brown

I did a shoulder stand this morning. I hadn’t done any yoga for ages and it felt good to stretch again. It made me wonder why I’d ever stopped.

Shoulder stands and middle-aged women can be compatible, especially, I suppose, if that middle-aged woman is a lifelong yogini with washboard abs. In that case, I’m sure it looks graceful and elegant. I imagine that it’s also energising and otherwise beneficial for the yogini in question.

However, if said middle-aged woman has been wallowing in enforced couch-potatohood for some years and is making tentative steps towards fitness, shoulder stands should be attempted with caution.

It wasn’t that I couldn’t do it. I managed it okay, and I did feel really good afterwards. I’m definitely doing it again tomorrow. No, the issue was the view. When you’re in that position, your eyes are facing your wobbly bits right at the point when they’re misbehaving the most. Which is a problem if, like a lot of women, your middle is one of your main ‘problem areas’ and you’re less than happy about it.

I’ve lost some weight over the past few years and my BMI is pretty much what they tell me it should be now, but when gravity is doing its evil worst on your middle region inches from your eyes, there’s really no room for complacency. It’s just as well I decided to love my body at last.

That seems ironic because, looking back, I should have loved my body all along. There aren’t many old photos of me because I couldn’t face a camera for years, but in the few that I do have, my body looks great. Even after childbirth. Why didn’t anybody tell me that at the time? Why didn’t I know?

Well, it’s probably just as well that I didn’t. The ego might have got out of hand and made a nuisance of itself. And anyway, loving your body is about more than taking pleasure in the way it looks. Who says how it should look anyway? So many of us get caught up in how we’re supposed to look without asking ourselves: why should I conform to what fashion editors , beauty product manufacturers, advertisers and other assorted body image fascists say I should look like?

I prefer to concentrate on real beauty – the kind that can’t be manufactured and that never comes from striving. Think of the people you love. Feel that love and ask yourself: is there anybody you love that isn’t beautiful? And does that beauty come out of a jar or a gym membership?

It took many years for me to learn to love my body because I was waiting for it to deserve to be admired. It didn’t look the way I thought it should – I spent too much time focussing on minor ‘flaws’ and not enough appreciating all that my body did for me. And the flaws were imagined – what I saw as imperfections were simply variations. Like a lot of people – women and, I suspect, quite a few men too – I didn’t appreciate my body, so didn’t look after it properly. It didn’t respond well to years of neglect, so I never did get the body that I wanted, and it didn’t get to be as healthy as it could have been. And all the time it was beautiful just as it was.

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