Photo by Dan Smedley on Unsplash
By Kellie Mox
One frigid day last winter I abandoned my book and phone, my usual companions in the bath, and closed my eyes as I sank into the hot water. Unlike most of my soaks, this time I fully surrendered, allowing the water to support my limbs and wash away my thoughts. My body whispered its thanks as my heart rate slowed and my shoulders eased down from their tensed attention. Then, for the first time ever, I talked to my body as I soaked.
I spoke out loud to her, softly and kindly, words of validation, empathy, and commitment. And even though I’ve practiced listening to my body for years, I felt like I was hearing her voice in a new way. I’d somehow never had such a deep, connected interaction with my body—in fact, I realized we were still somewhat disconnected. This felt surprising and preposterous. Why hadn’t I been doing this all along? Why wouldn’t I have the same tender conversations with my body that I have with my husband, my friends, my clients?
Have you had a conversation like this with your body? Most of us unconsciously talk to our bodies, but quite often, the words we choose aren’t kind. We separate ourselves from our bodies, a seemingly pervasive state of being for women in our culture. We shame and blame our bodies for their appearance. We disregard their cries for rest and proper nourishment. We numb their pain messages with medications, instead of striving to decipher them. It seems fitting that women make up 80% of those with autoimmune diseases, in which the body attacks itself. While autoimmune disease is linked to factors like the X chromosome, underlying infection, and even trauma, I believe that our bodies also become wired for self-abuse when we live in a state of self-attack. For me, this realization was a crucial piece of my own healing from autoimmune disease.
If we’re engaged in a relationship with our bodies that involves shaming, numbing, and disregarding, our bodies will respond accordingly. Our physical, mental, and emotional health depend on us listening to and responding to our bodies’ cues. It’s not just about loving our curves and dimples; rather, it’s about nurturing a deep connection with our bodies as a whole. We have to cultivate this nurturing relationship, but many of us don’t choose to or don’t know how. In many cases, trauma makes it especially difficult to connect with our bodies, and in this situation it’s imperative to get support to navigate the process. In any case, it takes courage, practice, and commitment. There’s no one right way to reconnect with our bodies, but here are a few ways you can begin.
Simply start talking to your body, with intention and kindness, validation and empathy. And open yourself to hearing it. Maybe you don’t feel comfortable talking to yourself out loud in the bath, but you can begin a conversation in your own way. Open a journal. Write a song. Paint a picture. Go for walk. Just begin by creating the space to be with your body and setting the intention that you want a relationship with this wonderful vessel that carries you through life. Ask one simple question of your body: What do you need? Listen for the answer.
Do you remember being a kid and feeling the simple physical joy of bouncing on a trampoline or spinning in a circle? While I can’t spin or jump like this at forty-two years old, I can feel the joy in my body when I’m climbing a rock wall, dancing to a favorite song, or flowing through vinyasa at yoga. I can also more readily feel where tension, anxiety, or sadness reside in my body when I’m fully present while I move. And when we move our bodies with the intention of listening to their sensations and messages, we deepen our connection every time.
I take regular breaks throughout the day to orient to the present moment, including my inner experience and my environment. I stop what I’m doing and notice my feet on the ground or my seat in the chair. I notice my breath, without trying to change it. I notice what’s around me and where my body is in space right now. And I scan my body, checking in with what’s happening inside. However you orient yourself, regularly pausing to give attention to your body will deepen that connection in every moment.
How we choose to nourish our bodies sends them a message, and if we listen carefully, our bodies will let us know what they need and want more clearly. Food, water, movement, sleep, intimacy, thoughts—these are all ways to nourish ourselves. They’re ways we punish ourselves, too, by overindulging or restricting and ignoring our body’s cues. Honoring our bodies in this way demands practice. You know that gut feeling you experience sometimes? That’s your body saying yes or no to something. It’s called a gut feeling because it comes from that place in the body that absorbs and assimilates our nourishment. We have it and must honor it.
We often need to learn how to have a healthy connection with our bodies because we were never taught how to do it. There are many modalities and practitioners that can support us in this: Feldenkrais, yoga, somatic experiencing, sensorimotor therapy, dance classes, mindfulness—the list goes on. As a coach whose aim is to revolutionize healing for women, I catalyze my clients’ connections to their own healing potential, and that often involves getting them connected to the right support.
Nurturing our relationship with our bodies, like any other relationship, requires continual effort and attention. Like anyone else, I have to make an effort to dive deep and explore this territory every day. After my revelation in the bath, I went to my journal and wrote a letter to my body. This is how it went:
I want you to know that I am here for you, listening to you, and holding space for you.
I hear you.
I see you.
I see how you’ve committedly carried me through this life.
I see how, despite times when I starved you or nourished you poorly, deprived you of sleep, put you in unsafe positions, pushed you too hard, and criticized you, you are still here for me.
I know I’ve asked a lot from you.
I know I haven’t always listened to you—your subtle messages and your louder screams.
I know we haven’t always trusted each other.
And this disconnected us from each other.
I want you to know that I’ve heard you today, and
I can understand why you’d be feeling tired, tense, and scared.
I can understand why you might not trust these new ways I’m being in the world.
I can understand why you don’t always feel safe.
I want you to know that I am committed to checking in with you every day.
I will ask you how you feel, what you need, what you want.
What you say matters to me.
I will consider your feelings as I move through my day.
I will endeavor to find that place where you are challenged enough to grow and sheltered enough to feel peace.
Thank you for being here for me.
I’m here for you.
Kellie Mox catalyzes revolutionary healing for women through powerful conversations and whole-health mentoring. She is passionate about authentic, meaningful connections—to the self, others, and the world—and believes that healing flourishes when we strengthen these connections and embrace our wholeness.
Kellie is a certified coach and a student of homeopathic medicine with a master’s in health behavior and health education. She works with women virtually and in-person from her home base in Ann Arbor, Michigan.