As I’ve gotten older and my body has changed I find myself still holding onto old patterns. How many times have you looked in the mirror and thought how fat you looked? How many times have you heard a friend say those words? It’s a constant theme in our lives. Since childhood, our society has pushed this “thin is in” attitude. I can’t tell you how many of my friends struggled with body image issues starting in middle school. We were coming into our bodies during the hay days of the “heroin chic.” Being waif skinny was the supermodel of the day. Then came the photo shopped airbrushed Victoria Secret models. What normal teenage girl can compete with a computer generated image? It becomes an unattainable image. This has had some serious effects on the ladies and young girls of our society.
As I listen to my beautiful friends and myself constantly put ourselves down I ask, why? At what age can you take a look in the mirror and be ok? When can you stop the continuous loop in your head about what you eat and how you think you look. It’s torturous to see a friend contemplate the effects a piece of cake, piece of bread, some pasta or even a glass of wine will have on their waistline.
Yoga has taught me to strive for balance. For me, this means eating healthy but also allowing myself to enjoy special treats from time to time, guiltlessly. Through yoga, I have come to a place of catching myself playing old messages about my body. Through yoga, I can stand in front of a mirror stripped down to my birthday suit and say, “You’re looking good.” Yes, it was uncomfortable at first. Yes, I felt stupid. But, I was tired of the self-hate and body bashing. If you want change, you have to make it happen. This change had a lot to do with being the mother of a daughter. It pained me to think of this beautiful soul tear herself up due to unattainable fake images our media sends out. We want our daughters to embrace themselves and not allow society to tell them their waistline size equates to their worth. We want our mothers, sisters, aunts, friends and ourselves to be ok with who they are. I’m here to tell you sister, “YOU ARE MORE THEN YOU’RE WAISTLINE!”
The younger girls of today have really embraced this concept and I am thankful for that. Look up your favorite supermodel and chances are they are talking about their cellulite. Social influencers are letting their muffin tops blow in the wind. Crop tops are in! Bikinis are in! Healthy self-acceptance and positive body image are cool. The question is, “Are you cool?” Can you jump on the bandwagon and give your self a break? Can you hold some self-compassion for your body and accept that you are a divine being?
I challenge you to be aware of those negative self-messages. I challenge you to then stop them. I challenge you to change them! When you show up to your mat, be with yourself completely. Fully embrace yourself as the beautiful goddess you are. Look at all the glorious things your vessel can do. Hug those curves. Look at the tiger stripes of carrying babies. Appreciate satisfying a lover. Lift a sister up. If you hear a friend start hating on herself, change the direction of that message.
Try something different. These old patterns are not benefitting you any longer. The more we engage in these messages the more toxic they become. As always, it’s a work in progress. When I started on that path, I just acknowledge them and push them away. If I feel unhealthy, I eat veggies, fruit, and salad. If I’m having a bad day and want some Cheetos, then I’m eating the Cheetos.
One of the eight limbs of yoga comes up on this topic. The limb of Niyama. The Niyamas are the personal conduct of your practice. The 5 Niyamas are tools for cultivating happiness and building self-confidence. These 5 things are suggestions at the core of healthy living through your yoga practice. The Niyamas are saucha, santosha, tapas, svadhyaya and ishvara pranidhana. The 2 most important, for this self-acceptance, are santosha and tapas. Santosha is contentment. Being grateful for what you have. The ability to look at yourself and be satisfied with what is. Look at yourself as YOU in this moment and be content. The tapas is your self-discipline. Taking control of your life. Taking control of your negative thoughts. When we act in a way against these principles, we have endless suffering.
So I ask, can you find a space to fully accept your body? Even if it’s hard. Can you stop those negative thoughts and embrace your vessel? Appreciate your curves and your bumps and just love you. Life is short and its much sweeter when you are happy with YOU.