By Lk Bookman
For decades Western media has emphasized the importance of being young, thin and beautiful. We also see it in yoga magazines and social media. Yet this idealized image does not represent the majority of people practicing yoga to enhance their wellness. These images can be inspiring, but also intimidating for someone interested in starting a yoga practice. They do not paint a true representation of what it means to “practice” yoga. The outer image is not the goal; in fact. that is far from the intention of the practice.
Like many women who grew up in America, I've struggled with body image. My size and shape has fluctuated from the time I hit my teens, and I must have tried almost every diet out there. When diets didn't work, I over-exercised. So much so that I eventually injured my knees from years of running and overuse. It wasn't until I discovered yoga asana (postures), that I came to truly understand and accept my body.
I soon learned that I couldn't practice yoga asana without also practicing yoga philosophy. The postures are just the tip of the iceberg. Yoga philosophy teaches us how to become free from the conditioned ideas and beliefs that imprison us. Many of us are not even aware of the damage—both physical and emotional-that we inflict upon ourselves when we feel our bodies do not look good enough. Whether it be a skewed self-image or letting go of addictive behavior, yoga teaches us how to develop compassion and gratitude for the bodies we've been born with. Yoga really is transformational and changed my life in a way I could have never imagined.
That's why I'm excited about the recent buzz about body-positive yoga. Now there are articles, classes and workshops to help individuals overcome the negativity instilled in us by our culture and the media. The “body-positive” message is an important one. It has a slightly different meaning for everyone, yet its core message is one of acceptance and belief in oneself—no matter the size and shape of your body, color of your skin, hair or eyes, or if your body has changed due to illness. Hopefully all yoga teachers are offering students a place to connect with their bodies as the groundwork for a more mindful existence. Whether larger or smaller bodied, we all have restrictions and different levels of openness in our bodies. Plus, our bodies are at different places every day.
Yoga teaches us to realize how fortunate we are to live in the body we inhabit. Our bodies carry us from one place to another. They gives us access to the beauty of nature, the pleasure of music and art, the practice of interpersonal relationships and serving others, the joy of a satisfying asana practice, the passing happiness and sorrow that teach us how to grow and thrive. The beautiful thing is we can enjoy all the wonders our bodies gives us access to no matter what it looks like. Through the moment-to-moment experience of inhabiting your body, you might realize you are a spark of divinity. And that my friend is yoga!
I invite you to Celebrate Your Body during my upcoming workshop on Saturday, August 27th from 2:30-4:30 pm at The Yoga Room. By setting an intention to be present to what is (instead of a goal to change your body), you become an ally with your body instead of an adversary. You'll learn tools to quiet your inner critic and celebrate all the incredible things your body can do! Expect an open discussion about body image and yogic philosophy, meditation, journaling, and an empowering, accessible practice suitable for all levels.
Lk, a yoga teacher and founder of the Austin Yoga Hub, has been a personal student of yoga for more than 18 years. She began the study of Ashtanga yoga and soon found Hatha Flow, Vinyasa and Yin styles of yoga to be extremely beneficial in providing for a well-rounded practice. Yoga has transformed her outlook on life and provided her with a deep sense of calmness and well-being. She teaches public classes at The Yoga Room and corporate classes at Austin area businesses.