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How Yoga Shaped My Body Image

Everyone has a body image. It’s the ever-evolving perception of your physical appearance.

Whether you’re a man, woman, thin or thick, young or old, we all have a perception of what we look like based on our own self-observation or the input from our friends, family or media.

Regardless of who you are or where you come from, we all create a story about how we think we look based on our height, shape and weight as well as skin tone, body hair, gender identification and age. Body image is not just how you perceive your body but also how you feel about yourself and your body. Positive or negative.

As a yoga teacher, I’m always saddened by the amount of people who automatically think that yoga isn’t for them because they don’t fit the mold of what a yogi looks like. A lot of men tell me they are not flexible enough. Many women have said they’re not thin enough.

But the truth is, yoga is for everybody and every body.

Unfortunately, modern media has been showing a very narrow (and superficial) portion of the yoga culture. As a result, it’s perpetuating people’s negative body images and making yoga seem intimidating and unavailable. However, yoga can benefit individuals of all different ages, shapes, sizes and abilities because yoga is not just a physical practice.

When people have a negative body image, they don’t perceive themselves as they really are. They feel unattractive, self-conscious, anxious and/or ashamed about how they look. Many times, people with negative body image have low self-esteem and can feel uncomfortable in their skin.

There are many reasons why I think yoga can help improve someone’s body image. When we take time to be with ourselves and breathe, we start to appreciate the skin that we’re in. A commitment to the physical practice of yoga can also help you build strength, confidence and courage which helps you feel better about your body. Committing to the meditation practice can help us quiet the negative patterns of the mind and allows for more mental clarity and non-attachment.

Gigi Yogini Body Love

My Personal Body Positive Journey

At first when I started yoga, I didn’t realize that I had a negative body image. But when I went to class, I was nervous and often hid in the back corner of the studio. I perceived myself as the “biggest” girl in the room and occasionally refused to try certain poses that I expected would be impossible (for me) because of my body.However, every time I left a yoga class, I felt amazing. Not only did my practice help ease my anxiety but I started to  see that my commitment was yielding results. Not only was I able to explore more challenging poses but my body started getting stronger and I felt more confident every day.

I felt so transformed by this practice that I wanted to share it with others. However, when I was considering yoga teacher training, someone told me that I didn’t look like a yoga teacher and suggested that I lose weight before pursuing it as a career.Although my body image had been improving, this comment hit me where I was already insecure. I thought to myself: Maybe it’s true. I’ll never succeed in this industry as a woman with curves.

It took me 5 years to face my fear and follow my heart to take my first teacher training. I eventually learned that my unique perspective was an asset, not an obstacle. My courage allowed me to move past my insecurities and helped me access the incredible benefits of deepening my yoga practice. Now, I am committed to making yoga feel welcoming and accessible to people of all types.

To join a Body Positive yoga class, visit my events page by clicking here.

YOGAudacious – January 2015

It is a great honor and pleasure to feature the stories of different courageous women every Wednesday at YOGAudacious. I believe that not only does it take courage to show up on your yoga mat, but by sharing the different stories of women benefited by the practice yoga, I hope to create new role models who inspire more women to get on their mats.

Here’s a review of the inspiring women of January 2015:

AMY

Screen Shot 2015-02-02 at 2.18.16 PM“One of the greatest benefits of my practice is radical acceptance. After years competing in races, I was conditioned to believe that my self worth depended on what I could achieve. Yoga has taught me that I am enough simply as I am in this moment. Yoga doesn’t really care if I can do a handstand or get both legs behind my head. It just asks me show up, exactly as I am.” – Amy Gartenberg

EMILY

Screen Shot 2015-02-02 at 2.17.45 PM“I still felt very self-conscious in yoga when I first came to the practice. It took me a few years to make my yoga experience about me, and not about the others in the room. I still actively remind myself to not compare, judge, or criticize my yoga body to other students, teachers, and “yoga-lebrities.” – Emily O’Brien

PAMELA

Screen Shot 2015-02-02 at 2.18.00 PM“The media grossly portrays yoga in a light that is affluent and thin as well. So, in my classes…I would position myself in a corner or near a wall to isolate myself socially because a) I am black b) I am curvy and, c) I am not wealthy. I felt like I didn’t belong at all! But I continued and that consistency is what changed me.” – Pamela Scruggs

CORTI

Screen Shot 2015-02-02 at 2.17.28 PM“Yoga has also helped me find and learn to nurture the softer side of myself just in time to surrender to the physical, emotional and spiritual practice of being a mother…It is only through truly being present in each moment that I can allow myself to be so many things – a mother, a designer, a business woman, a friend, a wife, a lover, an artist, a teacher and a yogini.” – Corti Cooper

For your chance to be featured as the YOGAudacious inspiration of the week, please fill out the survey on the participation page.