52 Ways To Love Your Body (New Harbinger, 2016), by Kimber Simpkins is a guide for embracing the body that you are in. Learning to love your body means no longer wasting your energy on body hatred and giving yourself back all that time to change the world instead. In her book, Simpkins shares with readers many of her favorite ways to treat her body with love and let go of the yearning for perfection, feeding her true hungers, and freeing herself of the mean girl voice she bullied herself with for years. And best of all, these practices not only have helped her, but also have been life changing for the many students in her workshops whose shift from body hating to body loving she’s been lucky enough to witness. It may feel impossible to believe that peace can be made with your body and you can even learn to love it. Maybe you’ve spent your entire life until now wishing your body were different, and you’re thinking that one little book isn’t going to change that. But change is based on practice, and you have to begin somewhere. That’s what this book is offering you — practices that can change your life. Let the practices here inspire and support your quest to become the friend your body deserves. By coming this far, you’re already on your way.
I love massage. I’ve never been on a massage table and thought, I hope this is over soon. Instead my mind usually floats along in some variation of, Wouldn’t it be great if this lasted forever? Another few hours would be awesome…. If you’ve ever enjoyed a massage, you know about its many benefits, including relaxation, flexibility, and well-being. If you’ve never gotten one, what are you waiting for? Getting a massage from a skilled therapist can be an amazing way to show your body you care and feel more at ease in your own skin. Trading massages with a friend or partner can be healing as well. Let your muscles be touched and cherished. If you want to feel more comfort and connection with the skin you’re living in, regular massage is one of the most effective ways to welcome yourself home in your body.
In between massages, as an everyday practice, you can give your body self-massage. Placing your hands on yourself with kindness tells your body it’s okay, it’s lovable, and it’s good enough to be touched. Use warmed natural oils such as olive, raw sesame, coconut, or sweet almond oil — any edible oil your skin finds nourishing. Experiment with which oil works best for you. You can use the oil all over your body, before, during, or after your shower. Self-massage has been especially healing for me, allowing me to touch my whole body with love and compassion. My body finds it deeply reassuring on a cellular level, bypassing my old litany of judgments.
Self-massage sounds simple, but it’s not necessarily easy. If you find the idea of massaging your own body challenging, I’m with you. For years there were certain parts of my body that felt like dead chicken skin when I touched them — my hands would freeze and then cringe away. It took many years of practice before I could touch every pore and crease with ease and reassure my body that every part of it was beautiful and worthy. So feel free to skip the parts of your body that are too hard to touch. It’s better to massage what you can than skip the whole thing altogether. And be patient with yourself. As you begin, see if you can just say hello to the various parts of your body without judging them. Greet each elbow and knee and ankle in turn.
I do self-massage every day and have for years, and I can attest to the huge difference it’s made in my tendency to blame my body for every little disappointment. Self-massage seems to get me and my body on the same team. When I go through periods when I’m traveling, especially camping, and I don’t “do my oil,” the old critical voices that point at my body and jeer start to creep in, whispering at first, then yelling full force. When I reunite with my daily oils again, the voices soon disappear into the ether.
It’s wonderful to treat self-massage as a meditation practice, focusing on putting the oil on your body and staying with your breath, not believing any particular thought that happens by. You can also combine self-massage with loving-kindness practice, wishing yourself well as you massage the oil in all over. If you have a special mantra you find reassuring, one that reminds you of your true nature, repeat it to yourself as you massage. Use this one, if you’d like: “My body is worthy of love.” Whisper it, shout it, cry it out.
Here is one way to practice self-massage:
- In your bathroom, place a bottle of raw organic sesame oil in a bowl of very hot water.
- Take your shower as usual.
- As you get out of the shower, put a towel on the floor, and dry yourself lightly with another towel.
- Pour some of the warmed oil into your hands and massage it into each part of your body, enjoying the breath and the feeling of warm oil on your skin.
- You may want to sit for a while and let the oil soak in, or lightly dab your skin with the towel to remove extra oil, then get dressed as usual.
(Your towels may need to be washed in hot water to remove the oil residue.)Try it for a week and see if it subtly changes how you relate to your body.