Body Image Issues – Mothers and Daughters Free From Shame
Body Issues - Paradise. Absolute Paradise. Those were the only words when thinking back on my day at Rock Lodge that were adequate to describe my experience and all in a brief visit to this magical sanctuary.
“Packing light?” my husband joked with me as I put my sarong, towel and hat in my canvas beach bag. Conspicuously missing a swimsuit, I smiled. I had wanted to visit Rock Lodge all summer – a nudist paradise – beautiful lake, scenic hiking trails, wildlife and nature in abundance and the option to be absolutely clothing free. I had offered to teach a yoga class at 11:30am that day and after a few wrong turns on my adventure there, I arrived just in time for the class. I was joy-filled to see a wide range of yogis in the class, as old as seventy and as young as seven, each celebrating their body and the spirit of yoga sans clothes. In my yoga practice thus far, naked yoga had been about consciously removing clothes and the identities behind them and thus finding a new, deeper layer of freedom that isn’t generally available in the rushed metropolis of New York City living. However, now I was faced with a group of people who already had that layer of freedom available. There was no disrobing ceremony. These powerful yogis were already in celebration of their body, loved yoga and wore whatever clothes at Rock Lodge that felt appropriate in the present moment, including, most often, nothing at all. Sitting, meditating, Om-ing with this community, I thought – heaven is truly here on earth. This is what a world looks like when we are free of shame, guilt and fear.
Talking over a potluck supper that evening with my host Sandy, he mentioned of one young woman – eighteen years old, a budding opera singer and regular at Rock Lodge since she was eleven. “She will never have an eating disorder,” Sandy said very frankly to me over our potluck. “When one grows up with body love and acceptance in all shapes and sizes and sees their parents embrace that, one never feels the need to alter who they are.”
I knew exactly what he spoke of. I envied this young woman who had been exposed to paradise from the impressionable young age of eleven, while I grew up struggling with body image issues from pre-teen to adolescence. I stared at this young woman and at all the women at Rock Lodge and was overwhelmed to tears with gratitude that a place like this existed on the planet. I recalled instantly, like moving through a memory box of pictures, the snapshots of shame I had felt in my body from a young age – my rejection of wearing shorts in middle school because of my perceived ugly legs, walking out of a room backwards after making love with a college sweetheart so he couldn’t see my buttocks and thighs that I thought were unsightly, feeling the self-judgment and loathing of my body the first time I was naked in public as the young French boy I was dating stripped and encouraged me to join him and his friends in the skyclad hot tub as I tried to hide myself and my shame under the darkening night.
While these recollected moments felt like ancient memories and my shame long since transformed, today, seeing a new possibility being taught to future generations of girls and young women left me rolling through the memory box seeing just how far we’ve come.
During my paradise day-trip to Rock Lodge, after swimming across the lake twice, I pulled myself up onto a dock in the middle of the lake and sprawled flat on my stomach, my buttocks and thighs completely exposed to the sun, the elements, the community, with not a twinge of shame in my body. There was no thought of hiding, concealing, judging what my body should and shouldn’t look like. Here, in the nude-ness of nature was the quiet ecstasy of one-ness. I hiked. I swam. I talked with friends old and new. I bared myself to the world. I marveled at a young Israeli mother and her seven year old daughter who practiced side crow yoga pose on the swim deck naked as a… crow. Accompanied with her mother, an accomplished yogi practicing next to her, I saw what my relationship to my body would have been like if I had the muscle memory to both be in side crow and to be naked publicly, free of shame at seven years old. I wondered what my life would have looked like if my mother had modeled for me how to love my body instead of loathe it. I wondered for sometime what our world would look like if mothers taught and modeled for their daughters that their bodies could be both sacred and shame-free. It would be in our blood. It wouldn’t be something we would have to search for, starve ourselves for, we would simply be in it, naked in nature, in side crow, in love of our bodies.