Yoga and Body Image

Body image and eating disorders are topics that are close to my heart.  My sister is a specialist in eating disorders.  As my daughter was growing up, there were far too many of her friends that had either obvious symptoms of an eating disorder or a clear eating disorder.  It’s scary.

As an American woman, I’ve been bombarded with images of what my body should look like my entire life.  While those images have changed slightly over the years, they are usually an unattainable figure of thinness, often assisted by editing and PhotoShop, that have warped our ideas of what a woman should look like.

Lots and lots of female yoga teachers are tiny.  When you see pictures of female master teachers, often the first thing you think is – look at those abs, those arms.  How long do I have to practice to look like that?  Often we overlook what is being done and focus on the body.

Practicing and teaching yoga has changed that perspective.  Do I still look at my teacher’s arms and think “someday”?  Sure I do.  But first I look at see what her arms are doing.  If she’s doing handstands, I look to see what she’s doing that I’m not.  If she’s in a one-armed balance posture, I pull into my core and try really hard to get there.  Yoga has taught me to look beyond the body and look at what the body can do.  My body has grown so much stronger and more flexible over the years that it is hard not to want to translate that into how my body looks.  I work very hard to mentally take that focus off the way a woman looks, but to consider whether that woman looks healthy and strong.

Yoga can change your perspective for the better, and one of the ways it does is by giving you confidence in your body.  When you have confidence, you feel far less pressure to conform to what the media would like us to believe is the optimum body type.  Allow yourself that privilege.