How to Worship Your Body
I’ve often heard our bodies described as “meat suits” or simply as containers that hold our more important and worthy spirits. And when this happens, I become sad and a little confused. Though our body is transient while our spirit is not, it’s no less important than the spirit — it’s the gateway to it. Our bodies allow us to pursue our dharma (our life’s purpose), experience pleasure and pain (pain provides us with useful information), and help us make sense of the world around us. The body holds our memories, our intuition, and our desires. It’s not some add-on that we were given at the last minute. The body and spirit are inextricably united.
What if instead of shaming the body, acting as if it wasn’t important, or trying to get it to conform to an ever-changing societal ideal, we honored the body? We didn’t critique it or worry about whether it had too many or too few curves. Or forget about it because we had more important things to do. We treated this divine creation with reverence and gratitude — just like we would a place of worship. We considered what we put into it (substances and sex partners), what we exposed it to, and how we maintained it. Like devoted caretakers, we would choose a lifestyle and practices that would demonstrate our respect and appreciation and extend its vitality.
I recently came across this piece of brilliant wisdom in Clarissa Pinkola Estes’s iconic piece of literature, Women Who Run with The Wolves:
Some say the soul informs the body. But what if we were to imagine for a moment that the body informs the soul, helps it to adapt to mundane life, parses, translates, gives the blank page, the ink, and the pen with which the soul can write upon our lives? Suppose, as is in fairy tales of the shapechangers, the body is a God in its own right, a teacher, a mentor, a certified guide? Then what? Is it wise to spend a lifetime chastising this teacher who so much to give and teach? Do we spend a lifetime allowing others to detract from our bodies, judge them, find them wanting? Are we strong enough to refute the party line and listen deep, listen truly to the body as a powerful and holy being?
Can I get a hallelujah?!
The body is not something that we move beyond or rise above. The body is our guide. Or better yet, our guru — if we listen. Spirituality begins in the body.
So, how can we honor the body like the genuinely divine creation that it is? According to Ayurveda, we can start with our daily routine.
The morning and evening times represent how we will live and how we will die.
Ayurveda is an ancient Indian health system that optimizes health by holistically caring for body, mind, and spirit. Whereas Western medicine is focused on curing disease (and it’s really quite good at that), Ayurveda is more focused on making sure disease doesn’t occur. Wellness is attained through food and herbs, lifestyle practices like movement and self-care, and self-enhancing practices like mediation, journaling, and contemplation.
An important practice in Ayurveda is dinacharya or daily routine. It‘s a set of practices that you can do in the morning when you wake up and in the evening before you go to bed so you can live with awareness, intention, and well-being. Ayurveda wisdom believes that how we live each day is how we live our life.
Many of these practices are to honor the body and promote good health. These practices also protect the periods between sleeping and waking. The morning and evening are special times when the veil between spirit and matter is at its thinnest. These times represent how we will live and how we will die. This is the time to care for our physical and spiritual energy. And then, for the rest of the day, we can deal with the karma of our lives (all the other things we have to do).
Here is an example of an Ayurvedic morning routine:
- Wake-up early with the sunrise. That means that you go to bed no later than 10 PM.
- Scrape your tongue upon waking, removing the thick coating. Brush your teeth.
- Rinse your face and eyes with warm water.
- Drink warm water with lemon.
- Poop (Yes, daily elimination is crucial in Ayurveda).
- Engage in a self-enhancing practice like meditation, pranayama (breathwork), journaling, or reading a spiritually uplifting book.
- Move your body through yoga, taking a walk, or stretching.
- Practice self-massage with warm oil before your shower.
The idea is to do all of these things before you even check your smart-phone. In fact, I would stop sleeping next to your phone altogether. All the fake news will still be there later in the day. This is the time to protect your consciousness and honor your body.
An evening routine might look like this:
- Turn off all screens by 8 or 9 PM
- Light a candle
- Take a warm bath to reset the nervous system
- Read a relaxing book
- Be in bed by 10 PM
I know, this might seem like a lot to do — and in some ways, it is. But when you take the time to really care for yourself, you feel healthier, refreshed, and worthy. Not only that, but you’re no longer inclined to engage in weakening behaviors like drinking, gossiping, or casual sex that leaves you feeling crummy because you’ve invested effort and energy in cultivating strengthening behaviors
You’ll notice that when you start to take better care of your body, other areas of your life will start to improve too.
When you consider yourself divine (and I hope you do), you become conscious of your habits and practices. You look to cultivate habits that strengthen you and avoid the ones that weaken you. You create rituals around caring for your body and spirit.
You might think you don’t have time for such rituals or maybe that they’re not even necessary, but please understand — you do have rituals. It might be grabbing your phone and scrolling through social media upon waking, having a couple of glasses of wine in the evening, or binging on Netflix after dinner. We all have rituals, whether they are intentional or not. Ayurveda asks us to become conscious of them and their effects on our well-being. Let’s choose our rituals skillfully.
You’ll notice that when you start to take better care of your body, other areas of your life will start to improve too. Our outer reality is a reflection of our inner reality. Rather than spending our time futilely trying to control or manipulate external factors, we can spend it cultivating good health and inner peace. More often than not, these come hand in hand.
You can’t just sidestep the fact that you have a body.
I think of a dinacharya or daily routine as a devotional practice. It’s a chance to worship your body. You take the time to treat your body as if you were divine — and according to Ayurveda, you really are.
How to Practice
Review the dinacharya practices and consider which ones to integrate into your life. Don’t try to incorporate all of these practices tomorrow. That wouldn’t be sustainable — just frustrating. Pick one or two that you want to introduce and make a daily habit. Write them down on a post-it note and stick it to your bathroom mirror. Give it some time for a practice to become second nature — and only then, start to add another. Don’t get frustrated if you miss a day. You’re in this for the long haul.
If you’re on a personal development or spiritual growth path — you can’t just sidestep the fact that you have a body. If you look at either Maslow’s hierarchy of needs or the chakra system, you’ll see that the path starts with the body. I would go further to suggest your body is the path. Let’s not try to rise above it. Let’s genuinely experience it and, most of all, enjoy it.
Wishing you health, strength, and vitality on your journey.
Join me in my private Facebook group, Goddess Wisdom for Modern Women, to continue the discussion.