This is a big one for me. I don’t even know where or how to begin but I know that I have to write about this.
My journey back into my body began at around twenty.
But I guess before that I left it. I don’t exactly know when. Perhaps it was being a little chubby, a little bit clumsy. I felt shame around the puppy fat, the fact that I was slow at running and everything else. So I day-dreamt myself out of feeling embarrassed. I dreamt of the time I would be a sexy blonde woman like the Pamela or Madonna posters with big boobs. I’d wear a red dress and all the boys and girls would stare instead of tease me for being plump and flat chested.
I felt a need to be seen and invisible, both at once. And who knows why, but when as a teenage girl the bosom and hair eventually grew, the pain and shame grew more intensely too. And so did a desire to be cool and thin, to blend in. So like so many other girls who can relate to the story, I religiously counted calories, so that eventually I permanently felt a little faint but at least I could have some kind of pride in my body. And it got so many compliments it made sense.
But eventually the body couldn’t handle this abuse, it kicked up a storm inside until I got so ill and depressed I was put on drugs by the doctors to sleep and eat and sort all my problems out. They said.
I became numb, I became bloated, I felt less of anything, but at least I slept and ate. Which to be fair, is a good thing.
But something was missing, there felt a gap, a sadness, a longing.
Until one day I stepped shyly into a dance class, despite a twelve year hiatus after some traumatic ballet examinations. I was not particularly good, but I could reclaim that little girl who was told that she danced like an elephant. I could find my own elegance and fuck what anyone thought.
It felt strange and wonderful saying a strange kind of fuck you to restraint, I got to be kinda silly, and make mistakes, and it didn’t matter. My inner perfectionist rolled her eyes up and for one hour let me be free of her rapport.
So for about one magical year at a drama college in Cape Town I went almost every day. And of course, my body got happy, it started to find the shape that looked and felt like me.
I felt proud, I began to find a strength from the inside out.
Until one early morning I woke up feeling strange, and despite that irrational voice inside which told me not to, I went to my dance studio, down the dodgy street. And class had been canceled for some unknown reason. And there was a strange man outside. And despite all of the strange feelings I felt I listened to him, because he was strangely convincing and went in for a 'healing session' with him, and despite his promises to help me with freeing my body, his abuse did the opposite. After I ran away, I felt once again utterly ashamed of my body. How dare I bring attention to this female form? That's a dangerous game I realised.
So I bought the baggiest trousers and tops, the tightest bras to flatten my chest. I cut off my long hair, I moved countries and decided to reinvent myself. The dancing slowed to a halt. I started running instead.
As much as I ignored it though, that big piece of shame still lodged there, in my womb, in my breast. And I went back to daydreaming, slipping my consciousness back out of body and solely into head.
Until I got thin, manic and depressed all over again. This time, thankfully, I bypassed the drugs and stumbled into a yoga studio.
And so a long, sometimes painful but deeply healing and beautiful journey commenced. I began a daily practice of checking in to my body, some days more than others, some weeks more than others. I explored many weird and wonderful forms of yoga and movement… I knew it held something for me, I traveled the world and met many teachers and students. I began to teach the forms myself, to better understand it, to articulate and share this gift of being in the body.
Last summer I went on an advanced ‘Embodied Flow’ yoga teacher training where I had one of the most powerful experiences of my life, in a moment moving on a Greek island surrounded by the sea I remembered and felt who I truly was. Time seemed to slow down and it felt that I was in one moment but also all the moments leading up to this one. I danced more freely than ever before. I felt something unlock inside of me. I felt the support of the line of ancestral mothers cheering me on, for dancing like they were not able to, for unlocking their chains. Inside of me a dormant yet very alive woman, a woman who wanted and needed to be felt and seen, was finally freed.
A female human. She danced. She swayed her hips. She coloured outside of the lines. She said fuck you to the inner critic and all the judgements of the world outside.
She is me.
Since then, I have been working more specifically on letting go the shame I feel around my body. This shame has blocked up a lot in my life. It won't shed over night, but there is time. I refuse to live in fear just because I have breasts and curvy hips. It is my responsibility to celebrate my sexuality. Not to prove anything to anyone but to honour me, to honour all the woman before me, and for all our daughters to come. It doesn’t matter what the older ideas of another world may say, this is bigger than that.
By repressing my sensuality, I am repressing myself, the me that is me, my soul. This repression has devastated so many aspects of my life.
And so now as I put back on the red dress and dance, and as I begin to more truly inhabit and honour this body the skeletons tumble out of my closet, and I feel grateful for this journey to embrace all that she is … this wildly sensual creative pulsing breathing being.
“One day—a day of which trustworthy signs are already speaking and shining forth especially in northern lands—one day that girl and woman will exist, whose name will no longer mean simply a contrast to what is masculine, but something for itself, something that will not make one think of any supplement or limit, but only of life and existence—the feminine human beings.” -
Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet (1929)