I think the "Am I pretty enough?" question is one that a lot of yogis battle, women in particular. As we practice on the mat at home and in the studio, we find ourselves wondering: Am I beautiful? Is my body attractive (enough)? And can yoga transform me into someone sexier?
Putting on skin-tight yoga pants or some skimpy shorts for class leaves us over-thinking our body image or comparing ourselves to others around us. Some of us find our thoughts racing: can yoga help me lose weight? Do I need to lose weight?
With the pressures of an appearance-driven society motivated by the superficial (and all the glamorous models and yoga teachers out there), we see may begin ourselves as less beautiful than we are.
We look in the mirror to find flaws, instead of the beauty that's there. Or we become hyper-conscious and/or hyper-critical of "problem" areas.
You know you've seen these kinds of people in yoga class -- the ones that can't stop staring at their asses in the mirror for a 90-minute Bikram class, or re-adjusting their clothes in the middle of the Ashtanga primary series, or staring at the cute teacher and winking as they stretch into upward dog with a suggestive exhale.
Instead of choosing to approach yoga in this way, we can offer the practice as sacred, loving devotion. In yoga, we honor our bodies, not judge them.
Or, on the other end of the spectrum, there are yogis who are too scared to leave the living room because ashamed or embarrassed about their bodies. They set up their mats at the back of the studio, hoping no one will notice muffin top, a flabby bum, or adult acne. They misconstrue their outer appearance as a measure of their own self-worth.
Believing in your beautiful body is important. So is understanding that we're not all made to be the same size or shape.
As someone who's always been on the curvier side, I've had periods in my life when I have felt unattractive, inadequate, or downright unlovable. I've been overweight, and wished like hell to lose it again so I can fit into my "skinnier" jeans. I've never been a size 4/6, and I never will be.
But what I have come to learn is that I am in the body I'm meant to have, and that I'm beautiful the way I am. I also accept that my body will change over time, and that I can control some of those changes.
I've learned to make peace with who I am, inside and out. This isn't easy. It involves constantly re-accepting myself, being grateful for the capable body I have, and learning to cast off the messages around me about what it means to be "sexy."
In the interest of inspiring you guys to do the same, here are a few thoughts on how you can transform your thinking from, "Am I pretty enough?" to "How can I love myself better?"
Surround yourself with friends and family who support and love you.
Next, I highly recommend taking a long, hard look at your strengths. Instead of focusing on what you wish you could change, consciously choose to be grateful for what you love about yourself.
For every "flaw" you can find, there's something great about it. In my case, I couldn't do warrior-like yoga poses if not for my dancer's legs, which are curvy and muscular. My well-developed calves let me ride my bike like the wind. And because I've got hips, I look like a woman when I wear a dress, not a little girl.
When I take a close look at who I am, I know I'm beautiful. I'm real. I'm full of imperfections and blemishes which, when you look at the bigger picture, are no big deal.
Which brings me to another important point: I'm healthy in body, mind and spirit.
I am continuously learning to manage my stress, to find balance. I ask for what I need instead of trying to handle challenges on my own without the support of those who love me. When I set my mind to something, I can achieve it. I am strong and capable, with the willpower I need.
I replenish my spirit with love. I pray, believe, and act out my faith in the everyday. I share my passion with family and friends, express who I am in my writing, and cherish my relationships with others around me. Largely in part through my yoga, I have come to acknowledge and accept where I am in the present, in order to move toward a happier and healthier future.
I have begun to look in the mirror and smile instead of cringe at what I know is beautiful.
So, yes, I am pretty enough. And I know it doesn't always feel like it, but so are you.
For more inspiration on developing a healthy body image, see these posts from these bloggers:
- Eating disorders are serious. If you think you have one, please seek help. And if you're in need of some inspiration, check out Beth's story. Or read Angela's reflections on replacing binge eating with self-acceptance and love.
- Joanna of A Cup of Jo recently posted about feeling confident about your body.
- To learn why food makes you feel beautiful, check out this post.
- One bloggers discovery about the practical side of swimsuits. Plus, an impressive ad campaign about listening to your body, not the glossy pages of a beauty magazine.
Have you struggled to build a positive image of yourself? What have you learned? Please share your comments below, and thanks for reading!