What’s the connection between yoga and body image? This study showed practicing yoga was associated with higher levels of body satisfaction. Furthermore, yoga practitioners with prior low body satisfaction also showed greater increases body satisfaction. So how can our yoga practice help us feel more confident in and about our bodies?
Yoga and body image
Body image relates to the way we objectify our own bodies, looking at it from an ‘outside-in’ perspective. A powerful alternative to our focus on body image is that of our own embodiment. Embodiment is a term which refers to the subjective experience of living inside our bodies, from an ‘inside-out’ perspective.
Yoga, with its philosophies of peace, self-compassion, and acceptance, is a path to easing the endless analysing and criticising of our bodies. It helps us to transform our harsh inner critic, into feeling fully present and appreciative of what our bodies can do. Yoga enables you to practice peace within and strengthen your relationship with your body.
Yoga is a beautiful tool that offers practical strategies to inhabit our body differently. It can help people to change the relationship they have with their body and assist people recovering from chronic dieting and an eating disorder.
Rather than fighting against our body, the practice of yoga develops a gentle way to get back in touch and listen to her.
It can bring awareness to the present and allow us to notice physical sensations, our breath, and how we view our body.
It helps us to experience our body with mindfulness and self-compassion; rather than viewing our body with objectification, dissatisfaction and judgement.
From here we can slowly begin to reconnect and strengthen the relationship between our mind and body that dieting and the pursuit of weight loss steals.
We all have different bodies built for different things, and yoga has poses for all body types and abilities.
The goal of yoga isn’t to be perfect at every pose; the goal is to just notice and be aware. You begin to appreciate the way your particular body works, and that it will be at a different place tomorrow, next week and next month.
You begin to get stronger, more flexible, and certain poses become a little more accessible. The same things begin to happen in the relationship with your body.
Your body image becomes stronger and healthier, and your spirits are higher. Those warm, peaceful feelings of acceptance, gratitude and self-love, slowly but surely begin to strengthen inside you.
Your yoga practice, just like cultivating a healthy body image, is a journey. You will have days that are easier and more compassionate than others, but you are working toward feeling whole, happy and supported, regardless of your external body.
Do you practice yoga? I’d love to know how it makes you feel and if it’s helped how you feel about your body.
If this is something that you need help with, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.
Before I dive right into Intuitive Movement, I’ll give you a little more background on my story. As most of you already know, healing from my eating disorder has lead me to intuitive eating (instead of restrictive dieting) and a whole new approach to living in general.
A big part of having an eating disorder such as Bulimia, was the crazy amounts of exercise I would do on a daily bases. My relationship with exercise was not at all healthy. My journey with intuitive living began when my unhealthy obsession with food and exercise became a serious eating disorder, coupled with depression and anxiety and if I kept going, potentially a heart attack or organ failure.
After 15 years of constantly thinking about food and spending every ounce of energy I had left to weigh less, I couldn’t do it anymore. My teeth were decaying, my hair was falling out, my skin was always breaking out, my nails were brittle, my joints hurt, I was always cold and I had constant headaches and stomach pain, – I was f@%king miserable! Can you tell…
What is Intuitive Movement?
First of all I think it’s important and healthy to let go of the word exercise and instead re-frame it as “movement”. You do not need to run a marathon to get the same amazing benefits you can get from doing a Zumba or yoga class for example.
That’s not to say you can’t ever go for a run or do a pump class. There just needs to be a balance between full on push and pull, and soothing gentle movement. Constant punishing exercise is not healthy for anyone, let alone someone who may be experiencing concerns with food and body.
So, Intuitive movement is exactly how it sounds. Its taking the same ideas of intuitive eating and making them fit exercise. Intuitive movement means participating in movement that feels good to you.
It means taking a break when your body needs a break. It means forgiving of yourself when things don’t go as planned and you don’t get to move your body that day. It’s putting your mental health first.
How did I start Intuitive Movement?
I found what my body enjoys to do. I like walking, swimming, dancing and riding my bike. I don’t have a certain millage I need to walk or ride. I CHOOSEto do it because I know moving my body is good for both my body and my mind.
It’s no longer solely about burning calories. I love being able to listen to my body, see what it needs, see how its feeling and make that decision as I go. I encourage you to do this too.
Intuitive movement allows you to slow down, and be more aware of the ebb and flow of your body and life
Where should you start?
1. Think about how you enjoy moving your body. How do you feel before, during and after? Write things down, start a journal to collect your thoughts about movement.
2. Why are you moving your body? If your only reason for doing it is to look a certain way, then you may want to re-evaluate.
3. Moving your body is something you do for YOU! Not anyone else. Someone could tell you that a certain exercise or movement is the best thing in the world, but if you hate every second of it and you quit after a week, is that form of movement the right fit for you?
Life is about so much more than looking a certain way and weighing a certain number. Moving your body even incidentally, is something we can do for our bodies to ensure we are functioning at our very best every day. Don’t make it another form of torture for yourself. Doing something is always better than doing nothing.
– go tenpin bowling
– play table tennis
– play a backyard game of basketball
– walk the dog
– swim at the beach
– dance class
– help a friend move house
Just make sure you listen to your body, don’t force it and most of all, enjoy it! Your body and mind will thank you.