I’m really enjoying teaching my online Yoga for Women classes on Sunday evenings. It’s a really cosy way to end the weekend and to connect with other women whilst we are in lockdown. If you’re interested in joining the class contact me and I will send you the joining details. This week the class theme was about how yoga and body image.
Especially nowadays with social media, so many of us have a distorted view of our bodies. We waste far too much of our precious energy critisising ourselves for the way we look. Constantly holding ourselves to such high standards. Often comparing ourselves to images we see in the media. Forgetting that they have been carefully crafted and edited to the point where even the person in the photo doesn’t look like that in real life. If you don’t believe me try following Beauty.False on Instagram!
Yoga and body image
In my experience, yoga can be an amazing tool in our self-care kit on our journey to overcoming body shame. Practicing yoga can help to develop a healthier relationship with the way that we look. Yoga is one of the things that helped me the most to recover from disordered eating and develop self-acceptance and a more positive body image.
However there are also some pitfalls along the yoga path that can make us feel worse about ourselves. In this article I want to share 5 ways yoga can help to improve your body image and 5 body image traps to avoid.
How can yoga help improve body image?
- Yoga teaches us to be still and to turn our attention inwards. Even if it is only for the short time of the practice, we can shut out the outside world and let our true inner voice become louder. This means tuning out the external voices of societies’ beauty standards, other peoples opinions of us and our own interpretation of how we should be and instead letting the inner knowing that we are fine just as we are come through.
- Yoga is a great way to get your body moving and improve your strength and flexibility. Heart opening postures such as back bends and cleansing twists can really help to get energy moving through your body. They make you feel more alive and confident in your body. Standing postures help to improve your posture so you can stand tall and feel good about yourself as you move through your day.
- Unlike other types of exercise, yoga is not focused on weight loss or burning calories. We focus on uniting movement and breath to create a more calm, positive mindset and a strong, agile body. During ED recovery, switching out my gym and running sessions for walking and yoga did wonders to change my relationship to exercise. I started to move my body in a way that felt good, pay attention to how I felt and rest when I felt tired instead of pushing through in an attempt to achieve “results”.
- Practice of yoga asana (postures) gets us very acquainted with our bodies in all sorts of weird positions! We are forced to look at our belly rolls in forward folds, our thighs in downward dog, our double chin in shoulder stand. Any part that we might feel shame about we are going to come up close and personal with through yoga. And that’s a good thing! Yoga helps us to become used to seeing our bodies. It helps us to normalise the things we might not like and cultivate acceptance over time.
- Yoga is a personal journey. Yoga encourages not to compare our progress to others but to arrive on the mat each practice ready to observe what our body can do on that day. We realise over time that nothing is constant and progress is not linear. Our bodies change from day to day depending on what is going on in our lives, how much stress we feel, how much sleep we got and also the with the seasons. We learn to accept these fluctuations and even come to love watching things unfold.
5 yoga and body image traps
- Beating ourselves up or negative self-talk. As I said, yoga helps us to turn inwards and let our inner voice become louder. But what happens when your mind is ruled by your inner critic? Sometimes we can let this critical voice seep into our practice and tell us we are not good enough. That we are weak or our bodies aren’t flexible enough instead of just accepting what is and feeling grateful for the progress we are making. If you catch yourself spiraling down into self-criticism, pause for a moment to ask yourself why things should be different.
- Comparison with others. Although yoga encourage us to focus on our own practice, it can be tempting to compare ourselves with others. This is the worst possible thing we can do when we are trying to develop a healthy body image. Especially if those others are people we see online and not in real life. I have definitely fallen into this trap! I have compared myself to other yoga teachers online and felt shame for not being as flexible or as beautiful as them. As if this made me any less of a teacher. Simply not true! A home practice can be a great way to explore yoga without the temptation to compare with others around you. There are plenty of diverse teachers offering free online classes that you can try out.
- The perfectionist mind-set. If we have a tendency towards perfectionism we can also bring this attitude into our practice. We can have very high expectations of our selves and hold ourselves to extreme standards. Whether that is how our bodies look or being able to achieve the perfect yoga pose, perfectionism harms us more than helping us. It can cause injuries because we are being driven by an external ideal rather than focusing on what’s going on inside. I encourage you to let go of the idea of creating a shape with your body and instead focus sensations within your body.
- Feeling shame about our bodies. Again this is the other side of the coin of becoming aware of our bodies, we can also become more aware of the things we don’t like about our bodies. If we are not careful we can bring our body shame onto the mat and instead of accepting what we see we can magnify the things we don’t like and start to pick ourselves apart. If you catch yourself doing this during your practice, take a big deep breath in and as you exhale imagine you are breathing out the toxic belief that is making you feel something about your body is wrong.
- Pushing ourselves too hard. There are many different types of yoga, from relaxing yin and restorative practices to more intense ashtanga and vinyasa practice. For anyone with a history of excessive exercise or body image worries, it can be tempting to use the more active, physically challenging practices as a way to continue to try to lose weight or change your body. If you fall into this trap, work on expanding your mind by bringing more pranayama and meditation into your practice as well as challenging your body through asana practice. Set the intention of awareness with every practice and listen to your energy levels and emotions
Over to you…
If you would like to work with me to balance your hormones and improve your health, contact me to set up a free 15 minute discovery call. I am a nutritionist, yoga teacher and women’s wellness coach. We work together using a combination of modalities to support your individual needs and help you to feel your best.
- Please like this post and share to support my business
- If you liked this post, follow my blog or subscribe by email to receive updates on new content
- Follow me on Instagram and Facebook for daily updates and inspiration
2 thoughts on “Yoga and body image: powerful tools and traps to avoid”
You’re so right! Women of all different body types practice yoga and we never talk about how maneuvering into certain positions makes you that much more aware the extra chin or tummy roll! Thankfully the practice really does makes you look inwards, focus on the movement and breath work!