I am a teacher of many things. Most of what I share here is pagan spirituality, but I am also a teacher of yoga. I love the way breath and movement come together in a flowing dance. I love the way these beautiful human bodies can move, twist, balance, and open. My great joy over the last couple weeks has been the return to in-person classes with other vaccinated people. For me, virtual yoga classrooms are a feeble substitute for the feeling of a group practicing yoga in person.
My sorrow over the last couple weeks has been hearing about how everyone is feeling about their bodies. Many of my yoga students have expressed frustration with the way their bodies responded to the pandemic. Most of us put on weight. Most of us are less physically strong than we were.
Here’s the thing, though – our bodies did exactly what they are supposed to. When we are subjected to a threat, these amazing bodies start building up resources so that we can survive. They hold onto calories and store them. They focus their energy on keeping us going, even if it means spending less energy maintaining certain muscle groups. Our bodies did what we evolved them to do – they made sure there was enough of everything to survive the long-term threat of the pandemic.
And you know what? Even though I know that, I’ve felt bad about my body, too. The constant blaring of the Body Shame Profit Complex means that I was viewing my enhanced curves with some remorse.
I was in the shower late last week and thinking about Litha. About the way this glorious High Holiday, this day of greatest light, this herald of true summer is so physical. It is the celebration of the body of the earth around us and its fruitfulness. No one objects to more apples swelling on the tree, larger beets, or a greater abundance of berries.
And suddenly it clicked.
As I washed my body, I lingered over each limb, each part. I washed away the harsh thoughts or words I’d directed at myself – at my thighs, my upper arms, my hips, my tummy. I apologized for misunderstanding, for not seeing my beautiful body as the same as the green and growing earth. I apologized for my lack of gratitude for my body’s determination to keep me alive. I gently washed and rinsed and called upon the sacred contract we have with Elemental Water to wash away that which does not serve.
As those harsh words and thoughts slid up and out and off my skin, I felt joy begin inside my chest and spread out to each limb, all the way to each fingertip and toe. I realized that I had found my Litha ritual, right there in the shower.
When I stepped out, I toweled off and then reached for the lotion. I carefully moisturized each bit of skin, pouring love and gratitude into every place I touched. I blessed my body, thanked it, honored it for all it has been to me, for over 40 years of survival and adaptation.
Then, I stood quiet, arms wrapped around myself in an embrace.
What do you need? I asked my body. How can I honor you?
Move. I heard back. My mind filled with images – my feet on the hiking trail, dancing in the kitchen, walking the dogs. Move.
I spent the entire weekend moving – a constant walk, hike, dance. My mental health was the best it’s been in many weeks. With every step, I felt my body rejoice.
Move. For me, the lesson of Litha this year is movement. Everyone’s message will be different. Our bodies need many things – food, love, healing, stretching, orgasms, nurturing, and more.
I fell into that Litha working sideways without preparation, lucky to have on hand the simple tools needed. If I were going to do it deliberately, I would gather:
~ a bodywash or soap featuring scents associated with purification (sage, rosemary, cedar, juniper, pine)
~ a container of salt water for the last rinse after scrubbing
~ a lotion or oil specifically for anointing
(although regular body wash and Aveeno lotion worked just fine for me, so remember you can always use what you have)
If you’ve been looking for a way to honor Litha, to bring the spirit of the season into your practice, into your very bones, I think this works pretty well.
Let me know if you try it. I’d love to hear the message you get.
Blessed Litha, y’all. May the long-time sun shine upon you, and may you grow strong under the summer skies.
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