Exploring the ways that yoga practices support a positive and helpful relationship with the body...
Recently, I’ve been supporting a number of people who hold negative perceptions of their body and offering yoga as a powerful tool to improve body image concerns. Body image can be influenced by many factors, including our culture, our personal experiences, and the media. Body image concerns can have a detrimental effect on our mental health and sense of overall wellbeing. Holding a negative body image can lead to feelings of self-doubt, anxiety, and depression, and for some people, a negative perception of the body can form one part of difficulties with eating and weight control behaviours.
I have witnessed the ways that body and mind yoga practices can help to improve body image. Through physical poses, breathing exercises, and meditation, yoga can help to improve body image in a number of ways:
It increases body awareness. Yoga teaches us to pay attention to our bodies in the present moment. We notice how our bodies feel in different poses and how our breath changes as we move. This increased awareness can help us to appreciate our bodies more and to be less critical of them.
It builds strength and flexibility. Yoga helps us to develop strength and flexibility throughout our bodies. This can help us to feel more confident in our abilities and to be more comfortable in our own skin.
It reduces stress. Yoga is a relaxing and de-stressing activity. It can help to reduce anxiety and depression, which can improve our overall mood and outlook on life. This can lead to a more positive body image.
It promotes self-acceptance. Yoga is all about accepting ourselves for who we are, flaws and all. We learn to listen to our bodies and to respect our own limits. This self-acceptance can extend to our body image as well.
In addition to these specific benefits, yoga can also help to improve body image in a more general way. It is a holistic practice that emphasizes the importance of mind, body, and spirit. Yoga teaches us to be more compassionate and understanding towards ourselves. This can lead to a more positive and accepting view of our bodies.
If you are struggling with negative body image, yoga can be a helpful tool to improve your relationship with your body. With time, dedication, and repeated practice of yoga skills and approaches, we can build a healthier view of our body and learn ways to be patient, accepting, and kinder to ourselves.
In our yoga practice, it is not what we do that is important but how we do the practices; the approach we take towards ourselves. When learning to improve body image through yoga practices, it can be helpful to:
Focus on your breath. Your breath is your anchor to the present moment. When you focus on your breath, you can let go of negative thoughts and focus on your body sensations.
Be non-judgmental. When you are practicing yoga, try to be non-judgmental of yourself and your body. Accept yourself for who you are.
Listen to your body. Don't push yourself too hard. If a pose is too difficult, modify it or take a break.
Respect your yoga journey. Yoga can include challenges and also things that feel easeful. Recognising both of these parts of your experience are helpful in feeling proud of your body, learning to appreciate what it can do, and respect your own unique limits.
Would you like to find out more? Come experience some psychology-enhanced yoga classes, courses, or workshops with me in Exeter! Click on the links below to find out more:
Kayleigh is also available for individual in person yoga sessions including trauma-informed yoga in Exeter and the surrounding area to help you work towards your specific goals and to sensitively adapt the practices to your circumstances and concerns. Individual yoga focuses on developing a trusting therapeutic relationship with the yoga teacher and feedback and reflection along the way really support this. Find out more here.