Poor body image is a problem that plagues girls and women of all ages. From very young prepubescent girls to grown women, they struggle with their body image. Women feel they are too thin, too fat, too short, and too pale, the list can go on forever, but you get the idea. There is always something to criticize and few seem at home and comfortable in their own bodies.
This poor self-image seems to be transmitted from generation to generation. Whether it is teasing at school, attitudes about body image gleaned from fashion magazines, or hearing mom take digs at her own body, girls tend to be picking up on these messages earlier and earlier.
Yoga can help improve your body image. Through the practice of yoga, you learn to listen to your body and feel strong, healthy and capable when you perform a challenging asana. Yoga also teaches you to be present in your body, and embrace its triumphs and limitations on and off the mat.
Perhaps more importantly, through yoga you can learn to shut off the constant stream of thoughts and inner criticism. Although we are exposed to messages about body image through the media, family and friends, it doesn’t take hold until we absorb and internalize these messages. The resulting inner criticism is the most damaging to developing a positive body image. Yoga and meditation teach us how to turn off these thoughts, which helps improve body image and confidence.
Your own interpretation of your yoga practice can help build a positive body image, or damage your body image. The fitness industry has co-opted yoga and you can find plenty of yoga for weight loss, toning and body sculpting yoga DVDs. While yoga can help you achieve those goals with a healthy diet, this is not the goal of yoga. Be aware that taking this fitness approach to yoga can actually contribute to a poor body image.