back to Body

As yoga becomes more and more popular, it’s easy to find tons of images of women posing away across all kinds of media. Yoga can have a transformational impact on the mind and body, which in part makes it so attractive. But sometimes, our mental image of the “normal” skinny blonde yogi make us think that we have to have a certain body type in order to practice yoga and love ourselves at the same time. I definitely had some of these thoughts when I started practicing. While I was thrilled that my legs and spine were getting stronger, I didn’t always like what I saw in the mirror when I practiced. Eventually, though, I learned that no matter what I saw, heard or read about yoga in the media, my practice wasn’t defined by my body.

Here are a few lessons that helped me to get that place.

  1. Yoga is much more than physical appearance. This can be hard to remember, because yoga is rarely separated from its physical benefits in Western media. Rarely did I see women with fuller figures pictured in American yoga magazines, which signaled to me that we’re a long way from honoring bodily diversity. However, when I studied yoga through retreats, books and classes, the physical body was just a part of yoga. There are eight limbs of yoga, also called Ashtanga Yoga: our actions in response to the outside world; our actions towards ourselves; posture practice; breath or energy control; the withdrawal of senses; concentration; meditation; and absorption in a superconscious state. These limbs help us build a connection between ourselves and the world, regardless of our physical appearance. As I started enacting these limbs in my everyday life, I placed less focus on what I looked like and more on a healthy relationship with my life.
  2. We’re all unique. For a long time, I worried more about how I looked practicing yoga than I did about expressing the postures correctly. Once I stopped comparing my appearance to that of the women around me, I began to heal the relationship between my practice and my body. Comparing myself to a different body (whether in class or in a commercial) had been distracting me from what mattered most: my well-being. In fact, I beat myself up mentally so many times that I questioned my self-worth even as I practiced yoga. Getting past that habit and into a place of self-acceptance made an incredible difference. As difficult as it may be in a culture that defines beauty so narrowly, we must learn to love and admire our bodies regardless of what other people think. And we do that with practice – not just a yoga practice, but a practice in loving who we are.
  3. Self-talk is critical. It wasn’t until I made the choice to think and speak positively about myself that my image of yoga and myself changed. I simply started saying “I love you” to myself as much as I could. This was a constant practice that challenged me every time I looked in the mirror. Sometimes I criticized myself, but that was only an opportunity to say “I love you” again. As I grew to appreciate myself and my practice, I saw that my body was still capable of expressing postures to their fullest. Though there are times I might notice the effects of eating too much, I don’t disparage myself. I know every time I practice yoga, it’s also a practice in loving my whole self no matter what I look like. I am an image of yoga, just like everyone else.

Yoga is about working toward attaining our highest potential. When we practice loving ourselves more, the ideals we see about yoga portrayed in the media, with our peers and even our false perceptions become less influential on us. When other people have judgments about what a yoga body looks like, our response can simply be to appreciate the body we have. Yoga is limitless, all-encompassing and beautiful in infinite ways – just as we are.

Micah Simon is a freelance writer and certified yoga instructor who lives by the mantra: think differently, act differently and live differently. Her other interests include domestic and international travel, holistic health, photography and sports. You can read more about Micah, her travels and see her pictures on her website at www.thesailswithin.com read more about