Healthy Body Image and the Perfect Yogi - by Carrie Bezler
People are being drawn more and more to yoga for different reasons. Everyone has their own personal limitations, goals and abilities and most of us practice yoga for various reasons. Whatever the reason is, the practice of yoga asana has become very popular and there are increasingly more advertisements of young, thin women doing poses that may be unrealistic for the average person or beginner. Without judging too much, it seems that these images portray a false sense of what yoga really is. This in turn, can be damaging to people who may be susceptible to body image disorders and who may be interested in starting a yoga practice. I believe that we can overcome these misconceptions through a balanced yoga practice that adheres to a few simple yogic principles.
1. Turn off social media. Pick a time of the day or week to do a digital detox. Sauca, one of the niyamas in yoga, is the act of purification and cleanliness and we can apply this to our digital life, as well. Releasing ourselves from the images we see on a daily basis can be very empowering and eventually we can learn to live more in the present moment this way.
2. Balance your asana practice with meditation (dhyana) and pranayama (breathing exercises). Meditation and pranayama are two of the eight limbs of yoga and can be very helpful if you are having trouble with anxiety or depression, but they are also part of a complete yoga practice and help to enhance and balance the physical side of yoga asana.
3. Daily affirmations. Admiring yourself in a mirror and telling yourself something simple such as, “You are beautiful just the way you are,” can be a very effective practice.
4. Find gratitude in your body. Another niyama, santosha, is the concept of contentment and gratitude. Being grateful that you have hands for handstands, arms for arm balances, legs for walking or standing and lungs for breathing can be a compelling tool of acceptance. Be grateful for what your body allows you to do. Examples in everyday life include cooking, writing, smelling, and tasting.
5. Accept others as they are and see their truth. No one is perfect, even yoga models are manipulated with photoshop giving the appearance of perfection. Accepting yourself and your truth, is one of the most endowing things a person can do. Satya, another yama of yoga, is the construct of truth. We can extend this by looking deeper to see the truth within ourselves and others, while at the same time, realizing that something may be an illusion.
In a world where the popularity of yoga is ever increasing and the industry seems to take advantage of this for profit, one should be aware of the effects this can have on physical and mental health. It is important to remember we all have our own bodies and minds with their own limits and abilities. As we delve deeper into our own practice to seek balance and understand ourselves and our bodies, we should realize that there is no such thing as the perfect Yogi.