How one woman found yoga, eased her inner hunger, and started loving herself. Follow Kimber as she shares her journey to loving her body, the joys and sorrows of yoga teaching, and venturing into the wilderness of writing and publishing.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Love Your Body Blog Part 37: Worship at Your Body’s Altar

Are you serious about wanting to learn to love your body? Are you committed to the process of becoming your own best friend? If the answer is “Oh yeah!” or even “Yeah, sorta, I think so,” I have a project to inspire your journey: make a Love Your Body altar.

What is an altar? It’s a sacred space in your home where you can honor and remind yourself of your inner path, and reconnect to what is truly important to you in life. When I was in Nepal last summer, we stayed in the homes of our Nepali friends. In every house we visited they had a “god room,” a separate room often designated solely for a family altar to the chosen deity, where prayers and offerings are made, and incense lit every day. Your home altar, on a window sill, a mantle, a shelf, or even in a cigar box, can be a lovely miniature version of a “god room,” honoring your ability to see the goddess (or god) in yourself.

Find a spot that won’t be disturbed too much by roommates or wandering kitties; if you have outdoor space, you could even set it up on a small table in the garden. Gather items that inspire you to love your body, or remind you of those people or things who support your growing friendship with yourself.

Making my own Love Your Body altar was a moving experience of collecting objects and inspiration from all over my house and inviting them to meet each other and be the guests of honor at a quiet party. In my yoga room, there’s a basic altar on a side table that I enjoy and play with the elements of sometimes, so all I had to do was clear it and rearrange and add items with the intention of honoring my body’s journey.

Here are the basic elements:

1. A scarf and candle holder in one of my favorite colors, indigo-violet, set the stage and create a visual center. I love indigo-violet… it’s the color I see when I close my eyes and invoke loving myself and the world. I think of it as the color I am inside.

2. Three photographs… one of my Buddhist teacher, Pema Chodron, who has taught me so much about lovingkindness, compassion, and fearlessness… one of a sculpture that reminds me of how my partner’s love has healed my relationship with my body…. And the last is me, in Baby Dancer pose, in front of the roots of a giant sequoia in Yosemite around the time I was first figuring out how to love my body.

3. Flowers from my garden, that remind me of my body’s connection to the earth and natural beauty.

4. A stone from the creek by Full Belly Farm, whose organic vegetables and marvelous farmer/friends have nourished my body and soul for many years.

5. A heart shaped mirror that was a gift from Anusara Yoga founder John Friend, and a sculpture of a woman doing yoga that was a gift from my teacher Katchie. Both remind me what an important role yoga and my teachers have had in learning to love my body.

6. A ceramic goddess incense burner with wide hips that I made years ago. She holds a “galaxy stone” in her lap… the whole universe within her embrace.

7. A Kwan Yin statue (she’s the goddess of compassion), and next to her (you can’t see it in the photo) a tiny statue of Saraswati, the goddess of wisdom. Learning to love my body has required a tremendous amount of both compassion and wisdom; they inspire me to look for these qualities both in the world and in myself to support my path.

8. A swirled purple and green hunger goddess I made from my son’s art clay. She represents the feeling of insatiable hunger that plagued me for many years. I made her at the height of my frustration over my hunger, and have been offering her gifts ever since, even as her demands gradually diminished. She holds a love charm, a goddess charm, a pendant from my mother of a Navaho mother holding her baby, and an Ohm charm and Buddha charm gifted to me by dear students. My hunger still likes to be honored.

9. Hanging against the scarf is the flying purple goddess who usually hangs in my bathroom. Her big hips and tiny breasts remind me to see my body as beautiful just the way it is.

10. Finally, two inspirational wisdom cards from Louise Hays. One says: “I fill myself with love, and I send that love out into the world. How others treat me is their path; how I react is mine.” The other: “I am in the process of becoming my own best friend—the person I am most joyous to be with.”

Take your time getting together your own objects and inspiration. You don’t have to do it all in one sitting. Let it grow and change over time. Once you have your altar set up, step back and admire it. What now?

Honor your altar by practicing yoga in front of it, meditating on it, or saying a prayer before it. You could bow to it and make offerings of fruit or chocolate. My hunger goddess loves offerings of chocolate. You could sing to it, say a mantra or dance before it, or invite friends over to share with them the significance of the objects and your journey.

Let your Love Your Body altar inspire and support you on your journey of becoming your own best friend.