Turns out, getting back in touch with your body doesn't require meditation, CBD, or crystals

By Gabrielle Kassel
Solovyova/Getty Images

When I started CrossFit, I didn't sip the Kool-Aid casually, like it was a Bloody Mary and I was a chill girl out to brunch. Nope, I guzzled it like bottomless mimosas. I love the sport so much I recently got certified to coach and regularly compete in local competitions.

But, after about two years, I looked in the mirror (naked) and hardly recognized my now much stronger self. Sure, the changes to my body happened gradually, but just as puberty felt like it happened all at once—suddenly, armpit hair! breasts! hips! This second "puberty" did too—suddenly, arm muscles! a squat booty! bulletproof traps! visible abs! (Related: What Happens When Women Lift Weights)

I love the way CrossFit makes me feel, and I'm proud of the ways I've leaned out and grown stronger. But still, when I looked in the mirror that day, my new body looked foreign to me. Not bad, just unfamiliar. It was as if my body had been changing all along, but I'd forgotten to take notice.

In CrossFit, as with every sport, how your body performs is so much more important than how it looks. In seeing my body as a machine, I think I'd lost sight of the fact that this athlete body is the exact same body.

The lack of familiarity I felt at the sight of my own bod felt straight-up weird. (I'm sure new moms feel a similar way about their post-baby bodies.) And while I didn't mind the new look of my muscles, I didn't like the feeling that my body wasn't mine.

So I made it a mission to reconnect with my physical self and "re-learn" my body, because CrossFit—which has done amazing things for my health and mind—is here to stay, and so are my muscles.

First, I tried reading an entry from Journey to the Heart: Daily Meditations on the Path to Freeing Your Soul by Melody Beattie because another fitness writer recommended it. Then, I tried meditating. And then, using CBD. These were all pleasant, mindful add-ons to my wellness routine, but they didn't actually do anything to make me feel more connected to my body, which was my goal.

I realized I needed something a little less heady, and a little more ~embodied~. One day post-shower I was nude and rocking out to Ariana Grande's "Bad Idea" and it hit me: This feels great. I should make this a regular thing. Thus, began the challenge of dancing around my room for 20 minutes in the AM...totally naked.

Could this plan seriously give me the reconnection I needed? Turns out, yes. Here are a few things I learned.

Moving in front of the mirror is key.

ICYDK, CrossFit gyms, called boxes, rarely have mirrors—which means I haven't seen my body move is years. But there's a mirror in my bedroom. At first, I shied away from the mirror, opting instead to face at the blank wall. (Exciting.)

When I mentioned this to CalExotics' resident sexologist Jill McDevitt, Ph.D., she suggested I turn around and actually face my reflection. [Cue Christina Aguilera.] "Focus on the function of your body, feel your muscles move, watch your skin stretch, and your hair twirl, you'll start to feel a heightened sensation of awe and wonder and appreciation for your body," says McDevitt.

And when I did? She was right. As my boobs flopped, quads flexed, and arms flailed, I didn't think about whether or not it was a good angle or if my moves looked natural. Instead, I noted the changes, focused on the things I liked about my new body and kept grooving.

Being naked is kind of great.

Part of the reason I was shocked by my naked body when I looked in the mirror a few months ago is that unless I'm having a lot of sex, I'm rarely naked.

"Because most of us are clothed most of the time, we can become unfamiliar with our naked self," says McDevitt. "Simply being nude in your home can help you get reacquainted."

Once I got used to being totally naked outside the shower, I realized how much I actually enjoy it. One night during my experiment, I even slept sans pajamas. What can I say?! I'm wild now.

Mornings are sacred.

The concept of a morning routine isn't new—it's probably all over your Instagram feed. But, apparently, this new addition to my morning routine is also therapist approved.

"When you start your morning by engaging in a simple self-care ritual, you set the tone for your entire day," says Stefani Goerlich, L.M.S.W. a sex therapist and social workout. "By beginning with self-care, you're sending a signal to your brain that says, 'I am a priority.'"

She says the fact that I danced in the morning probably contributed to the intensity of the benefits, and I agree. I noticed that even after I got dressed, I felt more in touch with how my body was feeling: which muscles were sore, if I was hungry or thirsty, and I'd even go as far to say this improved body-awareness helped me move better during my CrossFit workouts. (Related: Celebrity Trainers Share Their Morning Routines).

Destination: Body love.

Without sounding like an annoying cliché, three weeks later—yep, I tacked on an extra week because I liked starting my day this way so much—I can say, without a doubt, I feel more connected to my body.

My biggest takeaway? Dedicate time to actively appreciating and being *in* your body, and your body and mind will reward you—whether you have to dance naked to do that, or not.

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