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May 19, 2017

The Body Acceptance Series Part I: Creating the Space for Body Acceptance

mat space

May 11th, 2017 was a career highlight for me as I presented on this topic (image above) at the Body Image & Self Esteem Conference for the National Eating Disorder Information Centre! Such an important and thrilling (a little nerve-wrecking) task to take on but it was an opportunity I could not pass up.

The original presenter was unable to present on “Moving Body Acceptance Off Of The Mat And Into The World” so I was asked to facilitate it instead. A lofty goal, I think, to address all that is in that title, in only 75min. And so many directions the presentation could have taken! But I chose to:

  1. Draw on my lived experience
  2. Leverage my understanding on the concepts of neuroscience and embodiment
  3. And weave throughout some of my favourite embodiment tools (and there are many) in an effort to encourage self-discovery, healing and change

This 3-part series is to share that presentation (and possibly more) here, with you! I hope it will intrigue and inspire colleagues, clients/patients, caregivers and those in recovery in the complex field of Eating Disorders (EDs).

Let’s Explore, Question and Discover

In this 3-part series we will address, what I believe, are helpful components for recovery and healing:

  1. Designing a “mat” space as a personal labratory
  2. Asking the ultimate question: “What is it I and/or my client are longing for?
  3. Testing various tools/practices for engaging with the body in an embodied way

So let’s explore the first component that can be a starting off point in the journey…

Our “mat space” as our personal laboratory

EDs and body image disturbances are ailments that promote disconnection from the natural, integrated wisdom between the mind and body. In recovery, we are attempting to repair that separation. And yet connecting to the body experience again can be very scary. 

Neuroception: a term coined by Dr.Stephen Porges, describes neuroception as a wiring within our nervous system, interpreting the environments we’re in as places of safety or potential threat

If the intention is to gradually cultivate a sense of acceptance and connection for our bodies, then we need to feel safe to explore the body experience in a neutral way (I wrote more on body neutrality in this post).

One of the ways to create safety in ED recovery, is to begin with establishing boundaries for those explorations. The yoga mat can be a physical manifestation of that needed safe place. It can be a place  to practice new concepts. And when we are on our mat space it is:

  • A judgment-free zone, where you don’t have to “be” or “do” anything
  • And you approach the body and your noticed responses with sincere curiosity. I like to use the phrase “Hmm, isn’t that interesting!” whenever something comes up for me

A Ceremony: Creating Your Mat Space

In my NEDIC presentation, participants didn’t have an actual mat. And you don’t need one either. But you can map your “mat space” as your personal laboratory wherever you feel is best to do so:

  1. A good place to create that space might be your bedroom
  2. Stand in whichever space you choose
  3. If you have a mat, roll it out in your chosen space. Or visualize a mat, in whatever shape and size feels necessary
  4. Close your eyes, with arms spread out wide, take up space. Pause
  5. Declare to yourself “This is my sanctuary. This is my anchor. This is my safe place”
  6. Consider slowly and deliberately doing a 360 degree turn of your mat space
  7. With arms stretched out as you turn, continue to repeat the above declaration
  8. Once your mat space feels firmly designed for your personal explorations and comfort, complete the ceremony

Coming Soon: Part II of this Body Acceptance series will explore the question: What is it that I and/or my client are longing for? Until then, return to this safely (mat practice), slowly, gently and repeatedly