How Practicing Yoga Can Help You To Love Your Body
By Melanie Richards
Complaining about the way we look has long been a favourite – albeit unproductive – way for us women to bond. If a young girl likes the way she looks, she risks being seen as arrogant, as a threat or as delusional by her peers; so like most of us, I was conditioned to pick myself apart and criticize my figure to fit in. As I grew older, those negative beliefs became ingrained and my body image suffered.
I started yoga as yet another way to control my weight and fix my appearance. After a while, I saw “results” like leaner more muscular arms and a trimmer waist but it still wasn’t good enough. I kept practicing with the intention of improving the way I looked and started to notice that, result aside, I loved the way it felt to breathe in rhythm with my movements: sensual, graceful and refined.
When I met my edge in a warrior, I felt strong; when I bowed my head in a forward fold, I felt humbled; when I opened my heart in a backbend, I felt raw, vulnerable and alive. During the final relaxation with my guard down, I felt peaceful and whole. I carried myself differently after class: taller, lighter. Happier.
Dare I say, yoga made me feel beautiful (or to put it more accurately, yoga helped me to experience the beauty that was there all along).
Dare because although we strive for impossible standards of aesthetic beauty, to actually feel beautiful is a rebellious act. It’s counterculture for North American women to accept themselves as they are and to be comfortable in their own skin.
If we look at the bigger picture, yoga puts us in touch with our true nature: love, compassion, joy, peace and authenticity. As Nischala Joy Devi puts it in her interpretation of the yoga sutras, The Secret Power of Yoga, “Yoga is the uniting of consciousness in the heart. United in the heart, consciousness is steadied, then we abide in our true nature – joy.”
A woman (or anyone for that matter) who is aware of her true nature and walks around with a deep understanding and appreciation of who she really is, radiating joy… what could be more beautiful?
The rest is then revealed for what it really is – an illusion based on fear of lack and rejection. “At other times, we identify with the rays of consciousness, which fluctuate and encourage our perceived suffering.” Ironically, yoga is now being used to sell the illusion.
Yet, as much as “yoga” sells everything from clothes to yoghurt to bank accounts with the promise that if you consume said products you will feel sexy, beautiful, happy and whole, you can also just cut to the chase and simply practice yoga – rebelliously living your life from the inside out. I know that at its very essence, yoga is a path to beauty, joy and freedom and I have faith that anyone who gives it a fair trial it will know it, too.