It’s no secret that the healing powers of yoga are endless. A powerful, evening Vinyasa session can de-clutter your day and prepare you for the next. A relaxing restorative class can loosen up tight muscles. And as I stated in my previous article, yoga can even help heal a broken heart.
As a yoga teacher and health coach, I see many women and more and more men struggling with body image issues. In a world where the ideal and perfection is idolized we have lost our ability to embrace our uniqueness. Just think about the proliferation of plastic surgery, fad diets, and even yoga used for the attainment of someone else’s opinion of what is beautiful.
One student recently shared with me that she struggled with negative body image throughout her teenage years. She explained that a boy in her fifth grade science class called her “fat” and that led to a downward spiral of weight loss and body image struggles. In her early teens, she was diagnosed with an eating disorder and struggled throughout college. In her early twenties, her therapist suggested a yoga class to assist with the healing process. And for the past nine years, my student can proudly report that she has conquered her eating disorder through a regular yoga practice.
So what is it about yoga that allows a doorway into self-love and self-acceptance?
As humans, we get stuck. We get stuck in beliefs that are no longer serving us but still driving our behavior. Our beliefs keep us tied to what we know – even if what we know should be questioned. These beliefs are often formulated when we don’t have the education or information needed to develop rational beliefs grounded in truth. They are created in early childhood and for the most part we do not slow down long enough to question them, even if they no longer serve us into adulthood. This is where yoga can be instrumental. It helps us to start to put on the brakes and start to actually see what is driving our behavior.
Yoga as a practice of self-care can help remind you that the most important person in life is you. And that we need to love ourselves wholly if we want to heal and grow. It teaches us to clear out the clutter of the mind (other people’s opinions, media images, and our own negative dialog) and stay in the present moment observing feelings and sensations that are sometimes uncomfortable, but can be healed as they are released, instead of stuffed down or ignored. By releasing pain, we don’t let it fester in our subconscious where it can drive destructive behavior. Yoga helps us replace negative beliefs with reality, and when this happens the subconscious can then drive new healthier behavior. It teaches us to start that very important journey toward integrated self-responsibility, through self-observation and right action.
Whatever changes you might want to make for yourself, yoga can be a powerful supportive ally.