Body Image and Self Acceptance: What I Learned In My Yoga Class

For my birthday my parents gifted me with the most zen gift of all- 3 yogas classes! This gift was probably one of the most unique and exciting gifts I have ever received. For awhile, my parents were asking me what I wanted and I couldn’t think of anything. There was no “thing” I could think of, so instead they gifted me with an experience. I love taking exercise classes in a studio because they pull me out of my comfort zone in a fun way. Learning new ways to move the body and doing it in a group setting is both exciting and nerve-wracking. In the past year, I have started to fall in love with yoga. I went from viewing it as a “boring stretchy thing that those people do” to having it become one of the most special parts of my routine. In recent months I have sort of fallen off with practicing yoga, so I was so happy to receive this gift and get back into it.

I visited Shree Yoga in Saddle River, NJ. The company’s mission includes “uplifting the mind and spirit while strengthening and stretching the body.” The Shree Yoga method of practice is meant to “enhance body awareness and improve balance, stretch and flexibility.” One thing I was pleased to see when looking at the class schedule was that they offer a variety of classes. You can find classes for beginners, advanced levels, pilates, restorative and meditative yoga, etc. I signed up for 10 am hour long beginner yoga class.

All morning before the class, I started to feel anxious that there would be a class full of students who would be judging me for not being flexible or advanced enough. Although logically I knew this would not be the case, I had some trouble shaking those anxious thoughts out of my head. I tried to calm myself down by reminding myself that my fears are just fears and not reality. When I arrived at the class I was pleasantly surprised to find that this morning class consisted of myself and two other students, one following along on Zoom. I was happy to be relieved of the pressure of eyes watching me.

As the class started my instructor had the students do some simple stretches to get our body moving. As we were laying on our backs she shared with us about how throughout of lives, starting in childhood, our bodies are scrutinized and picked apart. We judge ourselves for having pimples, cellulite, wrinkles, etc. She spoke of the importance of appreciating our bodies and accepting them for what they are instead of constantly trying to change them and wish them away.

This got me thinking about how critical I have been of myself throughout the years. There was always something that I wanted to change. Whether it was my hair, nose, lips, etc. I spent many years looking in the mirror and feeling sad about how I looked. Especially when we are young, we are so susceptible to the media and their standards and expectations of how we are meant to look. Studies have shown that at age 13, 53% of girls are unsatisfied with their bodies. This has always been, but social media has only made it so much worse. Sometimes I think about the younger generation and my hearts for them, that at 14 years old they are comparing themselves to 20 something year old influencers. Years ago I saw this quote that helped me to stop viewing myself in a critical way. It said :

“Shift your perspective from ‘how do I look?’ to ‘this is my face'”

This really resonated with me because it illustrates the true power of acceptance. If you accept when you look and who you are, you remove any room for judgement and insecurity. Instead of picking your face and body apart, recognize it for what it is and love it for that. There is no need for questioning if you are good enough, fit enough, smooth enough. You simply are. Practicing the art of simply being will relieve you of unnecessary stress.

If you struggle with body image and self acceptance, try this exercise:

When you wake up in the morning look in the mirror observe your body. Do not judge, simply observe. Think “this is my face, those are my arms, that is my butt.” Next, look at your body and say 3 things that you like about yourself. It could be your smile, the muscle in your calves, the length of your hair, etc. Try to do this without allowing negative thoughts to pop into your head. If they do, accept them then simply move on to what you like about your body. Overtime this should help you to accept your features, instead of fighting with them.

Let’s grow together.

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