Both men and women are affected by body image issues. It’s hardly surprising, given our subconscious minds are fed images of airbrushed guys and gals advertising everything from orange juice to car cleaning products. We start to see these people as the ‘ideal’ men and women and can't help but compare ourselves to them.
Where does our body image come from?
The way our minds work and the language we choose to use about our bodies have a big impact. If we use words like unattractive and unworthy, then that’s what we will see. If we use language and thoughts that reinforce a more positive message -- unique, beautiful, worthy and healthy -- then we begin to see ourselves that way, and we will continue to make choices that support those things.
From my experience with this topic, it’s really important that we nurture and respect both our minds and our bodies with holistic practices like yoga. I spent more than a decade involved with eating disorders, and my attitude towards my physical self was at times, pretty shitty. There was a disconnection between my mind and my body, as if they were two separate entities.
I made choices and indulged thoughts that supported a poor body image, and this only changed when I discovered yoga.
With yoga, there was an immediate sense of connection that led me to appreciate what my body was doing in each moment, and watching my breath became interesting and joyful. I began to feel grateful for what my body was capable of, instead of focusing on how I differed from the idea of perfection.
Why Practicing With Awareness Is Important
It’s important to realise that while yoga can be an amazing source of inspiration and change, like anything else, there’s still potential for it to feed body image issues if you lose awareness.
Instead of comparing yourself to others in a class, tune in to your own breath and bring your focus to the present moment. Aim to be in the experience of each pose. If you catch yourself getting tied up in knots about what yoga pants to wear, laugh at those thoughts and then opt for something comfortable that will allow you to move freely.
If you’re practicing a dynamic form of yoga to lose weight, allow yourself to balance out all that yang with some restorative or Yin yoga and reinforce to yourself that you deserve the chance to rest and relax.
Through this sense of awareness that time on our mat helps to expand, we can change thoughts and words that feed self-doubt and insecurity. With a regular and respectful practice, we can facilitate a sense of connection that can only lead to a more positive image of ourselves on both the inside and out.
Has yoga helped you in the same way?