Fitness Can Be Used As A Healing Modality

Posted by Ilya Parker on


I firmly believe fitness can be reclaimed and utilized as a healing tool to help our most marginalized folks reconnect with their bodies in ways that feel supportive and liberating to them. Fitness can be affirming and accessible to all bodies.

As a black, queer, non binary trans masculine person I am reminded of the ways this world seeks to pathologize and remove me from my body daily. I also, honor that the current fitness industry has caused many trans and queer folks so much grief due to gender based violence, homophobia and inaccessibility to affirming and inclusive services. We are living in a time where trans folks are more visible than ever, yet we’re still being violently targeted by people in our on communities. There is also so many of us who are forced to hide who we are in order to remain safe. Trans and queer people need to be in physical and virtual spaces where we are met with compassion. We need to be encouraged and supported when we engage in movement practices that allow for us to embrace all of who we are.


Fitness has helped me so much in doing just that. To be clear I’m not talking about the toxic type of fitness that blames me for having a fat body and not doing anything about it. Nor the type of fitness that promotes rigorous training beyond what my body is capable of performing yet still wants me to keep pushing through the pain. Certainly not the type of fitness that reinforces diet culture causing me to have an even more negative relationship with my body. You can keep all of that!


For that past few years I have been working with folks to help redefine fitness and wellness practices that feel supportive not coercive, that disrupt ableism, that dispel myths about health & body size.

I have embedded in my fitness practice a grassroots community-based healing justice framework. To me, healing justice means creating space where we are able to liberate our ideas of health and healing from what we have been conditioned to believe through systematic oppression. It means having all the space we need to feel alive and free in our own bodies, and institutions (including gyms and fitness spaces) that reflect the wholeness of who we are and who we can become. The goal is to experience health and healing from our own autonomy, not from trying to achieve an ideal created by a mainstream that excludes and erases us.


When working with my clients in more restorative ways we are literally reclaiming fitness and utilizing it as a healing modality not a weapon. I’m a witness daily to ways in which my clients fall in love with fitness simply because their whole unique selves are held and honored no matter how their body moves and shows up in the world.


We all possess tools for healing.

Healers and Wellness “experts” can be awkward, fat, queer, trans, disabled, sex workers, chronically ill with mental health issues. We don’t always need special certifications.

Healing is a collective effort. It can be rooted in African & Indigenous practices. It can also have components from conventional medicine. It can be as simple or as complicated as we want it to be.

Healing is about listening to our bodies while respecting and honoring the collective. Fitness can help us regain ownership of our bodies!


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