Deep Stretch: On Neutrality And Nuance

Taylor had an opportunity to lead a series of two workshops for a dance company; one for the students and another for their parents. During these conversations, the topics of body positivity and body neutrality were discussed. It's important to note that as similar as these things are, they are different. Body positivity speaks to the ways in which we or others may speak to or about our bodies. Finding ways to celebrate and affirm. Body neutrality is something like a partnership with your body, sort of standing next to yourself and saying "we're in this together".

What's important to keep in mind as we have these conversations around the body and self care is that self care is not one size fits all. Creating a care filled life means that you are able to be in conversation with your body while responding with love and nuance.

Episode Transcript

Welcome back to Inner Warmup where your inner work begins. My name is Taylor Elyse Morrison, I'm the founder of Inner Workout, and you are normally our expert guest but today's a deep stretch episode. If you're not familiar with deep stretch episodes, they come at the end of the month and it's my opportunity to just have a heart to heart conversation with you about what's been coming up for me with regards to self care and Inner Workout, oftentimes related to the theme that we've been exploring over the course of this month. So this month, we've been looking at the physical dimension and as I spend some time reflecting, I was reminded of an experience I actually had last month. I had the opportunity to lead a workshop, or a series of two workshops on being in conversation with your body for a dance company that had students ranging from middle school to high school, and then a separate workshop for their parents.

And if you're wondering, like, why is Taylor leading a workshop for a dance company? I grew up dancing. I started late in fifth grade and then I did that through the end of the my freshman year of high school, which are really formative years...when you're building your sense of self, and really laying the groundwork for how you will relate to your body. And it was interesting, I am not what would be seen as the prototypical dancers body, I don't have the classical ballet dancers body. I'm 5'4" so I'm too short, I'm curvy, I have a generous bosom and generous bottom, both of them. And, yeah, I can think back to this one time when I had this teacher who kept telling me to tuck my pelvis, tuck my pelvis, and I was tucking my pelvis. I just have a big butt and what she was saying without saying, and I don't think this is what she meant, but she was essentially telling me like this part of your body, this big butt doesn't fit into what we've decided is beautiful or correct in the dance world. And the dance world has come a long way, the fact that I was invited to have this conversation is proof of that. But still, some of the stories that came up when I talked to those students like broke my heart, but these are experiences and feelings that they're still having. And even if their teacher isn't directly saying things, they're still picking up on what they should and shouldn't be. And it's weighing on them.

So in the workshop that I led, we talked about a lot of things but two of the core concepts that we explored were body positivity and body neutrality. If you are wondering where the neutrality in the title comes from, it's from the body neutrality. Body positivity, I feel like many of you listening will be familiar with that concept. It's loving yourself. It is really looking at your body and celebrating it and appreciating it. That's body positivity. I feel like if you've been on Instagram for at least an hour, you've seen a post that has its roots in body positivity.

Then there's body neutrality, which is something I've been introduced to probably within the past couple of years, that has been a really helpful counterbalance for me. So body neutrality is more about respecting your body as almost like a partner in how you view the world. It's not just saying that you are your body. It's saying you have a mind from an Inner Workout speak, we have all of these dimensions of ourselves, the physical dimension is just one of them. And we want to treat it with respect, but we don't want to over identify with it. And sometimes it's not even that we just don't want to, it's that we can't. It's hard for us to bring ourselves to this place of feeling a lot of love and that's why I like that both of these can coexist. That's why I brought it up when I was talking to these students. I think of body positivity and body neutrality like being in a long term partnership. So body positivity, that's kind of like the falling in love stage and you can have that over and over and over again. But as someone who's been in a permanent relationship for almost 11 years, I can tell you I don't always feel in love with my husband, but I always love him. I always respect him, I always see him as my partner. And that's where we get into the body neutrality. And that's where both can be useful because sometimes you are in a place where you do feel that love and affection. And it's really natural for you to express that to yourself. And there are other times where you, it's a little rocky between you and your body. And that neutrality, that acknowledgement that, hey, we are in this together, even if I'm not in love with you, I acknowledge how useful you are, how necessary you are.

Body neutrality has been great for me as I engage with movement practices. And just being able to say "I'm so thankful, even if I can't lift the weight of the weight that I would like." So say, I couldn't lift 20 pounds, but I could lift 10 pounds, I can still be grateful that I have arms that are able to lift anything. I can be grateful that I am able to walk and move through the world, so both are helpful. And I think that the conversation about body positivity and body neutrality, as different ways to relate to your body, really also underscores the nuance that needs to be present as we're having conversations about self care. I will speak from the "I", I really often want formulas. I want someone to tell me if you do these five steps, you will not be stressed out anymore. Or if you do this meditation in just the right way, and then you spin around three times and you click your heels, then you won't be anxious anymore. But the reality is that self care is so much more nuanced than that. That's why I talk about and Inner Workout talks about self care as listening within, in responding in the most loving way possible. That's why the type of self care that we talk about at Inner Workout tends to be more expansive than just what you see when you're scrolling on Instagram for posts on self care. Like when I talk about self care, and I think about what happens if you live your life actually listening within and responding with love, that has implications for...yes, how you relate to yourself, but also how you relate to other people, how you show up in your career, how you show up as a friend and a partner. What you decide to do with your days, there's so many implications for it. And when we look at the listening part of that self care definition, the listening within, it can be hard to listen within when we are being bombarded by so many other concepts and frameworks and how people are using them. Like body positivity and body neutrality, may be what you need in this moment.

I saw this when I was leading these dancers, some of them really needed body positivity. And others felt like body neutrality opened up a door for them that they didn't even realize that they needed. But if they would have just felt like well, a lot of people are resonating with this body neutrality, or body positivity, I guess I need to just make myself feel great with some affirmations. That's actually limiting themselves and it's not really listening to themselves. They can sense that they need something different. But they're prioritizing listening to other people, listening to posts on Instagram, even this podcast. If you are listening to something and not using that reflection time to think about how it relates to you and your life, you might be doing yourself a disservice in the long term. And then the loving response piece of things, that's where it gets interesting because our loving responses will be different. Our loving responses will be different than the person sitting next to you, than the person who shares a practice with you. Your loving responses will be different than mine, than your best friends than your partners than your dogs. And that is great. That's how it's supposed to be. Self care doesn't need to look so uniform all of the time.

I also want to highlight that your loving responses will be different than different versions of yourself. You might find a practice that supports you for a long time. Maybe body positivity has served you well for years, and you have affirmations that you say to yourself, and you have specific practices that you do that help you cultivate this loving relationship with yourself. And there might be a time in three weeks, three months, three years, where body positivity isn't serving you in the way that it used to and body neutrality feels more supportive. Your loving responses can and should be different than others in your life, and also yourself at different life seasons. That's where we get into the nuance of self care. And I feel like, I will spend the rest of my life seeing different versions of this. I have so much fun researching and learning about the ways that we can be in relationship with our bodies, in relationship with our whole beings. And I test and learn and see what works for me and what doesn't, and sometimes I store something away, because it doesn't work for me now. But I know that maybe when what is working for me now doesn't work anymore, this might be something that I test again.

You're meant to be dynamic. This is almost where you add like a little sense of play and exploration into your self care. It's allowing it not to be so black and white, it doesn't have to be an exact formula. Lean into that in between. It's okay if you are taught something, and you iterate on it. It's okay if you learn a technique, a breathwork technique per se, and you find that making the inhale one count longer feels a lot better in your body. That means that you are actually making this even more care filled of an experience for yourself. So don't end the quest to build knowledge around self care. Get so caught up in the frameworks and the systems and the processes that you lose sight of the nuance for yourself and for other people. It's hard, like speaking as someone who runs a self care company, we have to be so mindful as a company of offering starting points, and not being overly prescriptive, because I truly 100% believe that you are your own best expert. You know what you need in a given moment and my job, and the company's job is just lead you back to yourself. And so I wonder how you could come back to yourself. Maybe by going through and navigating some of the nuance that maybe you previously wanted to ignore.

What if there was a self care rule that you would allow yourself to break, a rule that you have set for yourself or a rule that you learned in a yoga class? Or you learned in a journaling workshop? What if you just tried something a little bit different to see if it felt better for you? Would you be willing to do that? This isn't a normal episode where I have the built in time for reflection. So I really want you, if you need, to pause yourself and give yourself time to consider this. Think about it, is there a place where you are ignoring nuance and you're getting so caught up in the routine and the framework and the point A to point C that you are not giving yourself room to explore? Create that space for yourself.

This is me telling you...encouraging you to create that space for yourself. That's how we really get to a world that is care filled. When we start looking at how each individual has different needs and stop trying to standardize every aspect of self care, because that doesn't end up serving people for the long term. You may have something prescriptive that gives you a nice turning point. But then from there, I really challenge you to continue to grow and to evolve. So those are my thoughts on body neutrality and body positivity. If you have been on the body positivity train for a while maybe you'll look into body neutrality and explore some of that and see if it feels good. And then that perfectly pairs with my thoughts on nuance, like I just said, giving yourself permission to break some of your self care rules. And just view it as an experiment. If it doesn't feel good, you can go right back to it.

I want to let you know though, where we're headed with regards to Inner Warmup and Inner Workout content for the rest of the year. We spent the past several months talking about a dimension of well being per month. It showed up in the newsletter, on our Instagram, it aligned to products that we launched, and now we have five products, one for each of the dimensions of well being. So where do we go from here? The podcast isn't over, that's not what is happening. We are going to go into a series for the rest of the year that we're calling Honest Holidays. And really, what we want to do is give you an opportunity to be really honest with yourself in the midst of a season where all of the songs on the radio and so much of what you're seeing on social media and maybe even what you're getting from people in your real life are telling you that you need to be happy, that this should be the most wonderful time of the year. Inner Warmup will be a place where you can explore yes, the beauty of what you've experienced over the past year, the joy, the happiness, if those have been pieces of your experience, but also to feel it all. A space where you don't have to gaslight yourself into having the most wonderful time of the year, where you can be honest with yourself and maybe eventually with others in your life as well. So that's what you have to look forward to for the rest of the year. Thanks for making it all the way to the end of this episode. I love hearing your thoughts. You can always DM us on Instagram and if you haven't, please rate and review the podcast, it's how other folks find out about the show. We'll be back for a normal episode next week. The first one of our honest holidays season. Okay, take care.