What Bodies Are For by Carike Claassen

“Enjoy your body. Use it every way you can. Don’t be afraid of it or of what other people think of it. It’s the greatest instrument you’ll ever own.”-Mary Schmich

I’ve lost three toenails since December. Friends and colleagues have remarked on noticing various bruises, cuts and scrapes on my arms and legs during these past few months. I’ve felt the vague pain of sore muscles as I sit behind my desk at work. And I’ve never felt better.
These past few months have been somewhat of an epiphany for me. The lost toenails, the bruises and scrapes – these are all tokens of a much more active lifestyle I’ve been promising myself for some time, and have finally followed through on. I’ve been on amazing hikes and beautiful, challenging trail runs. I’ve crawled through mud and under barbed wire to get through an obstacle course. And with every additional bruise and scrape, I’ve been reconnected to my body. I’ve re-learned some long-forgotten wisdom that has to do with what bodies are for, and I am enjoying my abilities more than ever. Let me explain.
I, like most people, am not always 100 per cent satisfied with my body. Based on the usual Western criteria for what a “good body” is supposed to be, I fall short. In December, however, this flawed body went on a hike with a group of friends. It was a six day hike in the beautiful Eastern Cape province that is notoriously difficult. It tested me physically and mentally each and every day – I had to push way past what I thought was possible in order to complete the hike. We walked through treacherous river crossings and on narrow ledges through some of the most amazing scenery I’ve ever had the privilege to view in my life. We climbed mountains, each and every single day. As we reached our hut on each night of the hike and gratefully unloaded our backpacks, I could feel the beating that my body had taken during the many kilometres we had to complete each day.
For the first time in a while, I went to bed and fell asleep immediately, exhausted by the challenges I’d had to overcome that day. I developed a new respect for my body and what it is capable of. And that’s when it started to take hold, this idea about what bodies are for.
It seems pretty obvious, really, but I think it’s something we so easily forget in our modern sedentary, technology-driven lives, fuelled by consumerism: Bodies aren’t for looking good on the beach, or in the club. They’re for living in. They’re for allowing you to go off the beaten track on a hike and getting to see a part of your country that few people ever experience. Bodies are for swimming in refreshing mountain waterfalls. Bodies are for dancing. They’re for enjoying food and feeling the rain on your skin.
At the end of the day, I realized this: If you’re blessed enough to be in a body that allows you to see, hear, feel, taste and smell all that life has to offer, then that is more than enough.
I hope you live today fully in your body, at home in your own skin, and confident in the knowledge that you are truly magnificent.

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