omen of the world: It’s time to reconnect. Being a woman holds different meaning from culture to culture, but women everywhere can agree that growing up female is no breeze.
Between trying to meet society’s conflicting standards for our appearance, personalities, professional lives and relationships, it’s a wonder young women can catch a breath, let alone feel tuned-in to themselves and their bodies.
The purpose of True Body Project, created by Stacy Sims in Cincinnati in 2005, is “to empower girls to identify and connect to their true bodies, to grow their authentic voices and to advocate for the health and safety of girls and women everywhere.”
“I feel like many girls and women are simply sort of slipping out of their bodies and living a life of the mind, and are either hostile or ambivalent or completely disconnected [from] their bodies,” Sims says.
Drawing from her personal experiences with addiction, anxiety and recovery, Sims compiled a curriculum to help young women become more healthy and empowered. She describes the curriculum as a combination of the principles of Girl Scouts, mind-body yoga school and women’s studies.
“Generally, what we do in True Body is not specific to any particular disorder or trauma,” Sims says. “So I’m not speaking to a group, saying, ‘Let’s talk about your cutting problem,’ or, ‘Let’s talk about your eating disorder problem.’ I’m providing an action-oriented curriculum that helps people re-integrate cognitive, emotional and physical resources.”
Common exercises Sims uses include physical activities and writing prompts.
In one of the exercises, participants examine black and white photos of a woman and assess her emotions and actions. By doing this, young women can begin to realize that what they assume about a person through physical observation isn’t always accurate. Just because someone is beautiful, fashionable or fit doesn’t necessarily mean she’s leading a healthy or easy life.
Physical exercises range from yoga to swimming and dancing; it’s all about developing a meaningful connection to the body. “It’s not about just running until you drop 40 pounds,” Sims says. “Not to say that might not get someone somewhere, but it’s really not likely going to emotionally take care of … [what] needs to be taken care of.”
The True Body Project began as an experiment with a group of teenage interns for ArtWorks one summer. The girls compiled a literary journal containing stories, poems and testaments documenting the ups, downs, ins and outs of modern life through the eyes of young women.
Since that first summer, the True Body Project has bounced around the country, taking the shape of everything from after-school programs and summer camps to community engagement projects and plays. Sims even took the curriculum to Cambodia to assist victims of sex trafficking.
“We’ve worked internationally now,” Sims says. “We’ve executed the curriculum in all kinds of different ways.”
Now that public health education seems to be taking similar cues concerning the mind-body connection, she’s excited about the future of True Body and what it can accomplish. True Body Project is designed to be used virtually anywhere, with anyone. Those interested in teaching the classes or workshops can purchase The Curriculum Guide for $139 and then submit program ideas for approval.
FOR MORE INFORMATION, visit www.truebodyproject.org.