The newest trend in yoga today is to talk about Yoga and Body Image. The conversation has started across the yoga community about what we are seeing in advertising and what we are really seeing on the mat, in classrooms and in yoga studios.
For years, mainstream yoga publications, websites and clothing companies have carefully crafted a very specific image of what yoga looks like. Pictures of very thin, almost exclusively Caucasian women are being disproportionately featured in advertising and promotion for yoga. Very rarely do you see an “average” or “regular” sized person doing a simple yoga pose. You rarely see men in yoga advertising because I was told they don’t sell magazines.
Thin, attractive, flexible, fair-skinned women sell yoga magazines. This aesthetic was very carefully crafted by aspirational marketing. Society creates this impossible image so companies can make money off your insecurities about yourself and your body—insecurities that this type of marketing helped create in order to sell their products.
“You Are Not Quite Enough”
It seems this is the way the western world works; change something that is meant to include everyone and make it an exclusive club that you need to buy merchandise to get into. This philosophy teaches us that we will never be quite enough.
One of the first things I learned about my body, was that it was fat and I needed to change that. At a very young age, I heard the quote “you can never be too rich or too thin.” It’s a stupid and harmful way of thinking. I find when you are too rich, you become spoiled and entitled, and when you are too thin, you die (okay – that’s the worst case scenario). It’s time to evolve our way of life.
What Is Body Image?
Body Image is your concept of how your body looks and changes based on your feelings about yourself. Your body image is based on your feelings about yourself, and usually has very little to do with facts. Body image is heavily influenced by mainstream media, your relationship with your surroundings, your peers, and most importantly, yourself.
Our culture tells us that the external way we look can control our internal feelings; it tells us that how we look is the most important aspects of ourselves. We need to change that ideal and connect more to how we feel, and yoga does that for us if we let it.
How To Create A Health Positive Body Image
It’s my mission to help people create a healthy, positive body image. If we are going to evolve our consciousness and find true fulfillment, we need to stop hating and shaming our bodies and start focusing on building better self-esteem. We need to broaden the image of what a healthy body looks like.
Self-esteem needs to be based on more than what you look like. How you value yourself needs to be based on your talents, values, and gifts such as being courageous, having a beautiful personality, your contributions to your community, and service to others. Being a great person can be a great building block for positive body image and self-esteem.
There are number of ways you can value yourself that will make you stronger and more successful in your life. Basing your self-esteem on how you look is a sure fire way to create a negative body image. You will never be able to live up to the crazy photoshopped ideal, so it is time to stop comparing yourself and focus on you.
Yoga And You
A great way to do this is to cultivate a yoga practice. Find a teacher and a space to do yoga where diversity and inclusion is celebrated. I suggest you stop looking at social media sites and publications that post seemingly perfect bodies doing perfect poses and focus on what you can do in your asana practice. Stay focused on what makes your body feel good.
One of the first tenants of yoga is ahimsa (nonviolence)—do no harm to yourself or others. The media creating unrealistic images of beauty is harmful to you, and it’s up to you to set those images aside, love yourself and be kind to yourself. You are beautiful as you are.
In your physical asana practice, focus more on what you can do and less on trying to be perfect at it. Mainstream media will continue to post picture perfect images, but I encourage you to change the esthetic and broaden the idea of what yoga looks like. Post pictures of yourself doing your poses. Please show us what you are working on; we are working on our stuff too. I will support you.
It’s Okay To Be Vulnerable
Being vulnerable is part of being your most authentic self, and that is what yoga teaches. Our happiness starts within. As human beings and spirits, we connect with vulnerability because it is truthful (satya). The irony is when we feel better about ourselves, we take better care of ourselves. Let’s start being grateful for this wonderful body in all its glory. It’s the perfect instrument to experience this incredible journey we call life.
Tune your body into the frequency of happiness by loving yourself exactly as you are. You are a miracle of engineering, love and light—please celebrate that. Your body, mind and soul respond better to positive reinforcement rather than constant negative criticism. If you want to have a happy positive life, change your approach to how you treat yourself. Happiness begins within.