Yoga and body image are a tricky pair. You hear your teacher chanting that yoga isn’t a competition, that it doesn’t matter how your pose looks, that if you practice, all is coming (including that taught Yoga Butt, right?)
As yogis, we are told that it doesn’t matter how you look. Good yogis are beyond the billions of dollars in advertising that have convinced us that we need to be thinner. Good yogis pay no attention to the lithe form on the mat next to you, effortlessly popping into a pose that you’ve been struggling with for years. Good yogis accept their bodies, regardless of the history of disordered eating and childhood name-calling and pure, unadulterated hatred we’ve mustered toward our thighs.
But asana is a physical practice: how can our body image NOT play a part in our yoga?
A crappy self-image distracts you from yoga. You’re too busy worried about how your ass looks in Prasarita C to feel your shoulders stretch, and you can’t step into your infinite power in Goddess pose if you’re concerned about your passion handles.
Good news, though: Certain yogic practices can not only help you radically and unconditionally accept your gorgeous vessel, but elevate that relationship by realizing that your body is divine. Your body is an incarnation of Shakti power: the primordial feminine creative energy that governs potent inception, expression and destruction.
To hate on your body is to hate on the Mother. Don’t be hating on the Goddess.
By cultivating witness consciousness of our bodies, we begin to see them in a different light. Yes, they are divine, and they are also mechanical marvels.
Have you ever looked at the bones of the foot?
Have you seen a nick from shaving heal itself in a matter of days?
Have you felt the lovely soreness in your muscles the day after doing something your body isn’t accustomed to?
Seeing the body a miraculous machine makes us appreciate this vessel, makes us want to look after her. We begin to want to nourish her with good, natural fuel. To move and bend and stretch because that’s what bodies like to do. To see how strong she is, how fast she can run, how far she can reach, because she is playful and curious.
There is a flip side to this coin: in addition to being a feat of cosmic engineering, she is a record of everything you have experienced, ever. Every ounce of pain and joy–in this lifetime and in past ones–are meticulously recorded in the fibers of your being. I love to bring up the example of hip-openers: how many times have you been in half-pigeon pose and inexplicably burst into tears? These are stored emotions moving through you on an incomprehensible level–your mind may not know what you’re working through, but your body does, and she is infinitely wiser than the mind.
Acknowledging the misguided attitudes we have toward our bodies and working with them in our yoga practice can help us heal and tune into the larger picture:
Through the celebration of our forms, we illuminate the world around us. When we revere ourselves, body and mind, we inspire others to do the same. By healing ourselves, we heal the collective conscious, mobilizing people to heal our communities and our Earth.
Woah. Big stuff, right? See what a little body love can do?
A big part of this is joining forces with your like-minded Tribe. Supporting each other in a safe, nourishing environment magnifies our power a gazillion-fold. Beginning August 7th, I’m leading The Skin You’re In Series, an extended exploration of what it means to cultivate body peace through your practice. We’ll discuss, we’ll practice asana, we’ll breathe, we’ll journal, we’ll create a little magic. Most of all, it’s a safe place to be vulnerable, to open up and to thrive among fellow yoginis. It’s gonna be a wild ride: Sign up here.