Yoga and Body Image – Part 1

*** I wrote this short article to start a conversation about yoga and its effects on body image. This is simply an introduction to the topic.  There will be more! When I muster the courage, I will share my own journey through body image issues with you. 🙂 Stay tuned, yogis!***

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The beginning of the year is a time for setting new goals and making significant changes. Getting fit and losing weight are probably the most common New Year’s resolutions. Being surrounded by media images of seemingly perfect bodies makes a lot of us feel inadequate, and we feel the need to improve our appearance in some way. Why then, do we fail to sustain this healthy lifestyle that we embark on with much enthusiasm every January? It’s because we set our goals from a place of lack, insecurity, and negativity. When most of us look in the mirror, we are discouraged by what we perceive as physical imperfections. We feel we need to look a certain way in order to be happy and confident. Instead of focusing on moving towards true health and wellness, we pay attention to only the most superficial aspects of ourselves.

What we must do, if we truly want lasting change, is to come from a place of self-care and compassion. This is where a yoga practice can become the perfect complement to your exercise regimen and nutrition plan. Yoga is healing to a lot of people with body image issues because your internal experience is more important than your outward appearance when you’re on your mat. When practicing, you are encouraged to attend to your body’s real needs instead of forcing yourself to look good doing poses that might not be right for you. Every pose is done with the intention of being kind to your body instead of rejecting it or wishing for it to be different. A consistent and skillful yoga practice teaches us to truly love ourselves, no matter what we look like.

There’s another reason yoga is helpful when dealing with physical insecurities. It is a very welcoming and inclusive practice. Your age, looks, race, background, and experience level do not matter. Yoga is not exclusive to certain body types; even though social media might give off that impression. The reality is there are many styles of yoga to accommodate anyone who is willing to try it. Even in a group yoga class, there are ways to modify the poses to suit individual needs.

There is nothing wrong with wanting to look better. It becomes a problem when we prioritize appearance at the expense of our physical health and emotional well-being. Only when we are acting out of true love and acceptance of ourselves can we make sustainable changes in our lifestyle that are actually beneficial for our health in the long run. Yoga will provide you with the tools you need to care for yourself while working towards your goals.

Note: I wrote this article for the Front Door Fitness website where it was first published. FDF is a wonderful personal training company in Kansas City; and I am proud to be part of the team. Check out the FDF blog for more free articles on fitness, nutrition, and healthy living.