Love Your Body (Even in Swimsuit Season)

Millions of Americans-most of them women-struggle each day with feelings of shame and inadequacy about their physical selves. In fact, studies have shown that the majority of American women don't like what they see in the mirror. (And obsessing about how you're going to look at the beach in a few weeks doesn't help!)

Yogis certainly aren't immune to the complex web of cultural forces that contribute to the epidemic of self-loathing. After all, it's not easy to reconcile life in an image-conscious world with the yogic notion that the body is simply the vessel through which we navigate a spiritual path.

But yoga practice creates an opportunity for us to re-create our relationship with our body. While we may have come to the mat looking for a "yoga butt," when we get there, we're usually so focused on directing breath into our tight quads or feeling the alignment in our hips that we forget about our appearance. By enabling us to go inward-to focus on how we feel in a pose rather than how we look-yoga encourages us to let go of our desires for our body and criticisms of it, to enjoy its movements. Over time, this experiential relationship with our body may even enable us to forsake the mirror for our internal seer, to filter out social pressures and unrealistic expectations, and to accept ourselves as we are.

Yoga makes a difference because of its emphasis on self-acceptance, something that's largely missing for those of us who dislike our bodies. The program in our heads-I'm not pretty enough, thin enough, tall enough - builds in volume over years until it's practically the only radio station playing. Odd as it seems, the vessel that keeps us alive, that nourishes us, begins to get nothing but our scorn in return.

Read more about how yoga helps you embrace your body.

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Posted by Erica Rodefer