Meditation recommendations for a better relationship with one's body?
September 15, 2021 9:02 AM   Subscribe

Meditative mefites, I seek your help in finding a specific kind of exercise. I'm looking meditations/visualisations/what have you, for building a better relationship with one's body. Specifically in terms of building trust, comfort, and compassion with the physical self. More details below the fold...

Working with my therapist I've identified that a big thing for me is that I have a distrust of and alienation from my own body, rooted in childhood chronic illness. My therapist suggested we find a meditation exercise to help with this, however we're both having trouble turning up just the right kind of thing, so here I am with this question, hoping the hivemind has an answer!

It's not to do with acceptance of appearance (which is where a lot of my internet searching is ending up), it is to do with making friends with the body as in coming to know it as not a threat, not an enemy. I've tried general body scan stuff and it's okay, but I feel like I bounce off it a little bit, like there's other steps I need to get through for that to not feel weird for me.

I'm a bit new to the mindfulness thing, however I have experience with yoga (bit out of practice), and deep listening (which mashes up bits of a few meditation practices, I gather), so I'm ready and willing to try things out. Suggestions of apps, books, videos, or whatever are welcome.
posted by threecheesetrees to Health & Fitness (19 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
I don't have a specific meditation in mind, but Insight Timer has a massive library of free meditations and they're all tagged and categorized so you're likely to find what you're looking for there.
posted by burntflowers at 9:06 AM on September 15, 2021 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Palouse Mindfulness is also a great resource. This body scan meditation may work well for you, and I believe there are more specific exercises over there as well.

Note that with somatic/body-oriented meditation, some people do experience heightened anxiety or panic -- sometimes connecting with your body is hard! This is especially an issue for some people who have experienced trauma.

So be sure to notice this and prepare to stop the meditation if you are starting to feel unmanageably overwhelmed, and be in conversation with your therapist about this stuff.
posted by tivalasvegas at 9:28 AM on September 15, 2021 [2 favorites]

Since you’ve had experience with yoga, perhaps try getting back into it with a supportive teacher? I know that practicing yoga TOTALLY changed my views about my body—pretty much in the ways you describe at the beginning of your question. I gained so much appreciation and gratitude for what my body CAN do, without comparison to others or feeling pressured to compete. It was really a game changer for me.
posted by bookmammal at 10:59 AM on September 15, 2021 [2 favorites]

Best answer: You might try this, which is a guided body scan that was associated with the original Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction courses when they were originally offered way back when. As you may know, Jon Kabit Zinn first brought mindfulness to medical settings. People in these early courses were dealing with all sorts of health and medical issues. I think much of the purpose of the body scan was and is helping people not feel in conflict with their bodies. So it's worth giving it a go. But there are lots of others out there too.
posted by swheatie at 11:12 AM on September 15, 2021 [1 favorite]

I came to recommend Insight Timer as well, and specifically to say their library contains many yoga nidra meditations. You may have to try a few before you find one that isn't heavily weighted toward actually falling asleep and is focused more on the mind-body connection. It looks like searching "yoga nidra body" might be more helpful. You can probably also find much of the same content on youtube.
posted by Lyn Never at 11:42 AM on September 15, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I would suggest looking for chakra meditations like this one (scroll down) to help move awareness into the body and its feelings with compassion.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 1:14 PM on September 15, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The term of art is Trauma-Aware Mindfulness and/or Somatic Mindfulness, if you want to Google further. I took a one-day workshop with Dr. Jill Satterfield that was along these lines - check out her work. Also take a look at This Difficult Thing of Being Human by Bodhipaksa, or his meditations on Wildmind. I’m going to come back to this thread for further answers - I am investigating this realm myself, with a few years of meditation background.
posted by matildaben at 5:43 PM on September 15, 2021 [1 favorite]

Adding that the general body scans mentioned above might be contraindicated for folks with somatic trauma - that’s where the trauma-aware aspects come in.
posted by matildaben at 5:45 PM on September 15, 2021 [1 favorite]

Jason Crandell’s yoga teaching and Richard Stryker’s yoga nidra, both on Glo, have been instrumental for me for exactly this purpose. It’s an app that costs $18 a month, and is some of the best money I have ever spent.

Jason Crandell is the best teacher I have ever taken yoga with: I learn new things about my body every time I practice a class of his. He is well-versed in anatomy, breath-focused and evenly-paced, teaches beautifully at all levels (I’ve taken class with him after years away and at times when I was deep into practice). He takes the physical practice of yoga as a path to connecting with our bodies and minds in the moment, not a competition or a workout or an esoteric practice. He also teaches meditation. He has hundreds of classes and several courses available on Glo. I cannot recommend him enough.

Richard Stryker is one of the only teachers whose yoga nidra feels unforced, as though he also is meditating through the delivery of guidance. Again, I have a totally different awareness of my body when I practice his classes.
posted by rrrrrrrrrt at 5:50 PM on September 15, 2021 [2 favorites]

This isnt a meditation in the traditional sense, but I found rock climbing to be the only thing that ever helped me trust and enjoy my body. While I'm climbing I'm focused only on the next movement. No talking, ruminating, etc. Just this extended moment as a physical being with a body that can move and stretch and get stronger.

Its really nice. I missed it a lot when the gyms were closed during covid.
posted by ananci at 5:54 PM on September 15, 2021

Best answer: Deb Burgard has several body-specific meditations that get at this. (Note that three different meditations are linked above.)

I'm curious why you're avoiding acceptance as a search term, because I can think of lots of relevant resources you might be missing because they use that term.
posted by shadygrove at 6:08 PM on September 15, 2021 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Lots of great input so far, thank you everyone for your contributions! I’m looking forward to exploring.

@Shadygrove, I guess my resistance to the term “acceptance” is I’m relatively accepting of my body in terms of how a lot of content I’ve come across frames the issue - my weight, physical ability, etc. aren’t perfect but I’m fairly well reconciled to them being what they are. On the other hand I find it super difficult to trust my body not to randomly surprise me with some kind of (at least perceived) life-threatening nonsense. For what’s going on with me, trust is the core of the issue. Maybe I’m bringing unhelpful baggage to the term “acceptance” though :)
posted by threecheesetrees at 10:40 PM on September 15, 2021

Best answer: i really like Sarah blondin’s live awake podcast. Here is one in particular you may like.
posted by missjenny at 4:24 AM on September 16, 2021 [1 favorite]

I think where acceptance comes in is, well, your body could surprise you with something life-threatening in the future. I'm not sure if your chronic illness is still with you, but if you are prone to sudden pain or spontaneous injuries (certain autoimmune/joint issues say) then telling yourself to "trust!" may be counterproductive and harmful.

But, you can learn to love and have compassion for your body, and to react to it - to yourself - with kindness and love instead of with suspicion and fear.
posted by Lady Li at 7:27 AM on September 16, 2021 [1 favorite]

As for accepting and moving beyond the childhood trauma, I don't know if this is a helpful thought but I am reminded of a therapeutic exercise I have read about where you imagine yourself as a child, and you imagine that needy, sad, scared kid in front of you, and you treat them with love and compassion - like a child should ideally be treated. Give your inner child a hug, be sympathetic and offer comfort. (Give yourself a hug, maybe, while you're thinking about it.)
posted by Lady Li at 7:31 AM on September 16, 2021 [1 favorite]

The emphasis in your question on "making friends with the body as in coming to know it's not a threat, an enemy" got me thinking about a specific type/application of lovingkindness meditation (LKM) that I've run across when learning about Radically Open Dialectical Behavioral Therapy. Unlike many lovingkindness meditations that are focused on increasing compassion for others and oneself, the point of LKM in RO-DBT is less on developing compassion and more on triggering a mood state that's associated with contentment, curiosity and engagement. It does this by supposedly activating a part of the brain associated with "social safety responses" (the feeling of being amongst good friends, for example). Essentially the idea is that by practicing this form of LKM, you are deactivating the learned/inherited hyper-vigilant threat-response to other people/social situations. It doesn't seem like such a leap (but maybe it is?) to stretch that to the perceived/real threat of your body. Let me know if you're interested and I can send you a copy of the ro-dbt LKM script that you can record reading aloud and the re-listen to it to practice it.
posted by flamk at 1:00 PM on September 16, 2021 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: @flamk that script sounds really interesting, if you could pass it on I’d like to check it out/give it a go. Part of the experience is a similar flavour of hyper vigilance/threat response to social anxiety.
posted by threecheesetrees at 9:15 PM on September 16, 2021

Best answer: I'm a fan of the work of Vidyamala Burch. She had a spinal injury in her youth and deals with chronic pain as a result. She has guided meditations and books about meditation for coping with chronic pain and illness. Some of her work is available free on Insight Timer so that could be a good place to start. Her techniques are based in the expectation that you may encounter difficult sensations or emotions when paying attention to the body, and gives various ways of dealing with that.
posted by squiddish at 9:30 PM on September 16, 2021 [2 favorites]

You might like this recent episode of the Ten Percent Happier podcast with guest Suleika Jaouad. She was diagnosed with leukemia at 22 and started a project called Life, Interrupted as she dealt with the emotional and physical fallout. They talk a lot about the same distrustful relationship with a body that seemed to have betrayed her, with an emphasis on mindfulness because of the podcast audience. Hope that helps.
posted by brism at 4:01 AM on September 17, 2021 [1 favorite]

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