If you’d asked me when the last time I felt in tune with my body was, a year ago, I wouldn’t have known how to respond, or even what “being in tune with my body” felt like. It wasn’t until my 31st birthday that everything changed. I wanted to give myself a special birthday present, but I wasn’t looking to travel or to buy new things. A friend of mind had just started working with a coach and was loving it so I figured, lightbulb moment, what better gift to give myself than coaching?
My Aha Moment
The coach I worked with was terrifically insightful and helped me to see that for years, I had tuned out from my body in order to achieve, accomplish, and succeed. If I was tired, I’d drink coffee rather than taking a break or getting more sleep. If I was hungry, I’d reach for quick, easy junk food rather than taking the time to get food that would would fuel me. If I noticed that I was tense and stiff and stressed, I’d ignore it and power through versus taking a break. For years, I tried to white knuckle my way to becoming my best self. I conditioned myself to tune out from my body in order to achieve and accomplish. It didn’t work. My coach helped me realize that an immensely powerful way to find balance and contentment was by turning off my mind and tuning back into my body.
My Turning Point
My coach suggested that I try a dance class as a starting point. I was shocked that after a sweaty, heart-pounding hour of dance, I felt more energized than when I started. Normally, I’d end my work day feeling depleted and exhausted. Dancing completely reinvigorated me physically and helped me press the reset button on my day.
As I began to dance more, I became more aware of and curious about how the food I was eating was fueling me. Slowly, I began to make small tweaks in my food choices- less dairy, less sugar, less processed foods.
As I ate healthier and continued to find new ways to connect with and appreciate my body, I became better at reading and honoring its signals.
Lessons from the Trenches
For anyone who can relate to my experience and is looking to make a change in 2015, here are my lessons learned:
1. Don’t Settle
Find an activity (dance, yoga, kick boxing, etc.) that completely ignites you. You should crave it, fantasize about it, and feel off when you miss it.
2. Find the One
Find a teacher whose class makes you love life. These teachers are rare gems- don’t settle! Just like you have to kiss a lot of frogs to find your prince, you’ll have to suffer through a lot of mediocre classes to find the right teacher. It’s worth it.
3. Don’t Fret
Ditch the self-consciousness, judgment, and even shame about your body at the door. Dancing can bring up a lot of fears, like “What if I look weird?” or “What if I’m unsexy?” There’s nothing more liberating than being in a class where the teacher creates a safe space for you to be goofy just for the sake of being goofy. I’ve found this ability to be playful has spilled over to other areas of my life in the best way. I’m more playful in my romantic relationships, with my friends, with the little kids who brighten my life. 🙂 The practice of hearing the committee of critical voices in my head (judgment, perfectionism, self-consciousness, etc.) and choosing to ignore them and just have fun and be me has been incredibly powerful.
Inspired to Act?
If you’re looking to make connection to your body a priority in 2015, a wonderful way to start is LeapCast Dance Crew, a 6-week dance workout class led by one of the most talented and inspiring teachers I know.
The format of the class is 20 minutes of high-energy dance workout, 20 minutes of learning new dance moves, and 20 minutes of learning dance choreography to a hip hop song.
Never danced before? No sweat- Dance Crew is for all levels. More info here. Fans of Balanced Babe and Be Healthful will get 15% off registration now through Dec. 24th— that’s 6 one-hour classes for just $75. Register here to claim your discount. Dance Crew also makes a spectacular gift for a friend or family member for the holidays. Bedazzled, glittery Dance Crew gift certificates available upon request! Remember, change happens in small shifts and small steps- like a long, winding hike that culminates with a stunning mountaintop view. Take that baby step today- you never know what magic will be unleashed.
About the Author: Leah Marshall
Leah Marshall is the Director of Development for Chicago Ideas Week, an annual week-long ideas festival that brings hundreds of the world’s most inspiring speakers to Chicago for Talks and hands-on Labs designed to spark new thinking, collaboration, and innovation in our city. Leah manages corporate sponsorships, media partnerships, and fundraising for CIW. Prior to Chicago Ideas Week, Leah led Government Affairs and Corporate & Foundation Relations for Teach For America and spent a decade working in education reform at the classroom, charter management, and administrative levels. Outside of work, Leah is a Zumba and dance workout instructor at Lakeshore Sport & Fitness and is the founder of LeapCast: a catalytic community for passion-seeking women. Current LeapCast offerings include the LeapCast Podcast, LeapCast Dance Crew, and Zumba For A Cause. More information at http://tinyurl.com/p7htyha.