Does My Downward Dog Make Me Look Fat?
The female body is one of the most scrutinized objects on the planet. Not only do we examine other women’s bodies as if they were undiscovered microbes, but ladies also inspect, dissect, and pick apart their own form with the scientific precision of a Nobel Laureate.
Most women are so hyper-aware of their perceived flaws that they could tell you their least favorite body part faster than they could remember their mother’s birthday. “My chin… and ummm… I think February 11th.” See what I mean?
The psychology behind why women are so conscious of their bodies is complex. There are many reasons, extending into culture, socialization, the male gaze, and self-esteem. The female body is objectified in a variety of platforms, and there is a collective consequence that penetrates deep into the female psyche. Ew. That sounded wrong.
I can pontificate for the rest of my life wondering why women obsess about their bodies, but I think, at this point, that is missing the… uh… point. My question is this:how can we women stop the hypercritical relationship we have with our own bodies and begin to have a genuine loving dynamic with them – and I am not talking about dry-humping our pillows.
The answer is this: Appreciating function over form. And that is where yoga comes in.
Yoga and the Female Body
As yogis, we are constantly exploring the boundaries of our bodies, and pushing them towards their limits. There is a pose you find challenging, and you work towards improving it. There is a pose you find easy, and you work towards expanding it. The journey is endless. On your mat, your body is a limitless investigation of possibility. No pose will ever be perfection, and it is this reality that will eternally inspire you to keep moving towards it.
So, instead of focusing on your big calves, be grateful how helpful they are during balancing poses. Rather than questioning the circumference of your thighs, appreciate that they are what support you in your Warrior 2. Maybe in place of complaining about a thick upper body, remind yourself that this means you have great potential for inversions.
Don’t look at your stomach and want to lose weight for bikini season. Decide that you want to go further into your twists and let that be your intention. Let’s not be ruled by vanity, but instead by the desire to improve our health and yoga practice.
When our motive is the visual form alone, we lose so much of the meaning behind what our bodies actually do. They are not merely ornaments for others to appreciate, but vessels for exploring the wide range of the human experience. If we can learn to value how our bodies operate more than how they decorate, we will then possess a wider spectrum of beauty.
The more we can authentically acknowledge the purpose of each body part, the less we have to resent the ones that don’t fit the demands of unrealistic popular ideals.