On Using Yoga To Help Battle Body Issues

Stop comparing and start loving.

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I recently hosted a body positive yoga class and media influence workshop in Denver, Co. that sparked exciting conversations around yoga and body image. You can't go on social media nowadays without seeing women in booty shorts showing the world their yoga skills from various intimate angles. There is no question that the image of a "yoga body" depicted in the media is a narrow representation of the spectrum of healthy bodies that practice yoga. How did we get to this place with something that is not about physical beauty but instead is practice founded on inner peace? For women, the harsh reality is that we live in a society that values our physical form above all others aspects of being female. Our desire for appreciation is driving our obsession with our weight, our bodies, our likes, followers, and the opinion of strangers, leaving our inner peace neglected.
If you take a moment to stop, breathe, and become conscious of the messaging you receive about your body, and its value, you will realize the weight that consumes most of your time, thought space, and intentions is not measured in pounds or inches.
The weight you are carrying is the societal pressure to conform to an appearance ideal. That is the weight you must shed first before you can provide a healthy, nourished space within for self-care. A powerful way to disconnect from the outside influence that whispers "You aren't good enough" and return to the loving and accepting home within, is to retreat to the fundamental practice of yoga and meditation. Yoga teaches the art of transcending to a higher level of consciousness, where your sense of the "self" becomes one with goodness or "the God energy" through our thoughts and actions. After some extensive research, I did not read anything about expensive yoga attire, a thigh gap, or photos of acrobatics in exotic locations as apart of this mantra. Isn't that a beautiful concept of living your life connected to your goodness and love within? Here are three things to remember as you work to create a better and healthier relationship with your body.

1.) Your self-loathing equals big dollar signs for consumerism.

When we talk about be conscious, that includes understanding the systems we live in and protecting yourself from their harmful agendas.  Profit is what drives corporations to drill for oil on our once safeguarded land. Profit is whats stopping women from having access to reproductive healthcare. Oh, and profit is the mastermind behind creating an unattainable beauty ideal that leaves you in a constant state of failure, forcing you to become a lifelong consumer. If you can objectively evaluate the value system for women based on physical beauty you can see how limiting it is us as human beings. By understanding that your power has never come from beauty, but from consciousness, you can begin to lay the foundation of self-empowerment and love. A great way to do this is to set your intention for your meditation or yoga session to be open to understanding and learning more about yourself and the world you live in. To be conscious and aware, casting judgment aside and leaving space for understanding.

2.)  The symbolism of being skinny

A huge key to this puzzle that we miss is evaluating what the beauty ideal is symbolic of. What do we get if we look like the "perfect woman?" That is easy; we get love, acceptance, admiration, success, self-control, health, inner peace, joy, happiness, attention, love and most important we are validated as being human. Who doesn't want that? No wonder it is so easy to fall victim to the belief that if we look how we are told we should look, we will have all the things we as women desire and deserve. Sadly, symbolism is an illusion and a powerful tool that has been used by advertisers for decades. It means that you as the consumer can be persuaded to believe that inanimate objects can be powerful emotional symbols in how you want to be seen by others. The belief that being skinny makes you happier, more lovable, satisfied, and valid as a human is irrational and untrue. But it makes you feel that way, and that is the power if symbolism. The best way to battle this form of influence is with positive affirmations that directly challenge those false self-beliefs. “I am enough. I am well. I am deserving of love. I matter.” Are all powerful thoughts that will have positive energetic responses in your biochemistry.

3.) Making healthy the new skinny

When you can identify ways in which you have been manipulated to alter your appearance, act out of character, or participate in a perpetual state of self-loathing, you can begin to examine what isn’t working for you and create space for a new way of living.  The mantra I love is “Healthy is the new skinny.” When our goal is to be skinny we justify unhealthy thoughts, practices, and lifestyles that leave us empty and starving for a purpose. How will your life change if instead of living to be small you lived to be healthy and well? Is your body operating optimally? Is it in balance? These are important aspects of health we ignore as we work to restrict and control our natural bodies. At our body positive yoga and meditation session, our instructor Logan Kenny directed us to breathe in and out taking up as much space as possible. Reminding us of how good it feels to take up space and be full inside. That is what we are seeking and the most amazing gift I have given myself is the permission to be full and whole from within. Now that you have some new insight into body image and the influence that uses it as a tool for profit, you can identify ways this negativity has disconnected you from your goodness and love within. You can also bring that negativity to your conscious mind, forcing it to change and evolve into something new. Something that is much healthier and more loving for yourself and this earth. The next time you walk into a yoga room and think “Uh, why are there mirrors?” Lay down on your mat, close your eyes, and remind yourself that you have goodness to share. You have a good body, a strong body, a body that loves you. Then breath in and breath out and feel how good it feels to be full and take up space in the world.

See Katie this summer at Wanderlust Whistler and Wanderlust Snowshoe

 Katie H. Willcox is the founder and CEO of Natural Model Management and Healthy is the New Skinny. Using her 13 years of experience in the modeling industry, Willcox strives to change the game of body image by giving people the tools to challenge the beauty ideal implemented by the media.