Body Love. It's one of those phrases like 'self-care' that's being batted around and is popping up all over your newsfeed, notifications, and headlines. If you're like me, it might make you a little uncomfy, because, well, just what the hell is it, exactly? For starters, if you haven't seen Mary Lambert crushing it with her piece Body Love (Part 1 & 2), you should check that out. But here's my definition:
Body Love (verb) - the act of acceptance of your own body, and the bodies of others, and the practice of appreciating, praising, and loving those bodies just the way they are.
Easy? Hell to the no. Important? Very much so. I'll never forget the time I was in a dressing room at Macy's, trying clothes on, and overheard the conversation of a mother and daughter in the stall next to me. Mom was trying on clothes and making exclamations over how nothing fit and she hated the way she looked. Baby girl was asking why her momma wasn't happy, to which mama replied 'I just don't like the way I look'. And my heart fell on the floor. We can't teach our girls this. The epidemic of women hating their bodies and passing that legacy to their daughters has to stop. Like I said, it's not easy - I still look in the mirror some days and can hear the little voice start tearing me down, but that's where body love comes in: 'the practice of appreciating, praising, and loving'. It's a practice, which means it will evolve every day. So, in that mindset, today I'm sharing 5 phrases that encourage body love that I've made a commitment to bringing into my dance classes. Teachers, I hope you'll consider doing the same, but don't think you have to be a dance teacher to incorporate these; use them with yourself, with your kids, friends, coworkers, and let's be the change. Who knows what we're capable of when we start pulling ourselves and each other up from the dressing room floor, and refocusing how we see our reflections in the mirror - I have a feeling it'd be pretty damn awesome.
1. Look How Strong You Are!
There's so many opportunities to use this phrase in a dance class. I like to use it especially when I get a request from a student to 'Look at me!' (which is usually, every 3 seconds). These words refocus both members of the conversation to how things feel, rather than how they look. I also like to use this phrase when a student hasn't quite gotten the hang of a movement yet; for example, if we're working on leaps and the student hasn't quite mastered moving their weight from one leg to the other, and is still technically jumping, this is a perfect phrase to use because it acknowledges their effort and strength without giving false praise.
2. Show Me How You Can...
Again, this is a wonderful phrase to redirect a student when they haven't quite got it, or if they're feeling discouraged. If a child is telling me they 'can't' do something, I find it more effective to say 'show me how you can...' and lead them through a progression of what they CAN do, rather than right away responding with 'Yes you can!'. That's a canned response, and kids can smell it coming a mile away.
3. It's Amazing When You...
I love this affirmation for kids both when they've done something amazing, and when you're trying to guide them to do something amazing. 'It's amazing when you stretch your feet like that!' rather than 'look how pretty your feet are'. The second phrase doesn't emphasize that the student has anything to do with their body, the first phrase puts them in the driver's seat of their body, and abilities. Similarly, 'it's amazing when you're thoughtful with your partner' is a gentle reminder of the behavior you'd like to see.
4. How Do You Feel When You...
Are you sensing a theme yet? :) This is another good one for redirecting focus to feeling rather than looking, or appearance. Plus, it's a great conversation starter! I learn so much from my students (and usually get a good giggle) when I ask them open ended questions like this. 'How do you feel when you spin?' 'How does it feel to quickly move high and low?' Questions like this encourage communication, articulation, and engagement; the trifecta of powerful learning!
5. What Muscles Are You Using?
When I tell people that I'm a dancer, a common response is to hear something like 'wow, dancers are so graceful/pretty', or to see someone reach their arms overhead and spin around (if you've ever done this to a dancer, please stop. Like, now). And I get that dance is a visual thing, and people identify dancers by how they look onstage, but all of that grace and pretty-ness comes from muscle. Similar to question #4, asking a dancer what muscles they're using while they move asks them to stop and think, articulate, and absorb. I teach muscle groups to kids as young as 3, and they can tell me what big muscles they have (quadriceps, glutes), and what they use them for (jumps, leaps, getting up and down). Again, we're focusing on what the body can do, rather than what it looks like.
Will you be incorporating any of these phrases into your life, or striking up a conversation with the kiddos using these tools? Let me know if you do, and what kind of response you get!