This afternoon there was a new receptionist at one of the yoga studios where I teach. When I introduced myself she said, “You don’t look like your picture on the website. Did you lose weight?” I smiled and said, “No, I don’t think so.” I know she did not mean her comment to be rude, but I was taken aback. My first thought was, “Oh my god, I look fat in my picture on the website.” My second thought was, “How dare she comment on my body.” My third thought was, “Who cares. She is a perfectly lovely woman helping to sign in students and I have a class to teach.”
Just the other day I was telling a friend that teaching yoga has really helped me deal with my own body image issues; and let me tell you, those issues are deep and go back as far as my memory can recall. The more I teach and witness bodies of all shapes and sizes move, the more I realize that strong, flexible bodies do not come in a one-size-fits-all package. All of my students are beautiful. There is nothing that isn’t inspiring and beautiful about someone actively physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually taking care of him or herself. Realizing that it is not the size of one’s thighs or butt, or the flatness of one’s stomach that makes me find her body beautiful, strong, and capable has helped me reframe how I view my own body. I am not a better person when my stomach is more toned. I am not happier when my thighs have no wiggle or jiggle to them. My friends don’t love me more when I am five pounds lighter. I am still me, with a slightly different outer shape.
I have been thinking about my body image a lot lately. The fact that I have been going to the beach weekly, which has meant staring at myself in a bathing suit regularly, definitely opened this can of worms. The fact that I also spend a lot of time with a three-year-old girl who is becoming more and more conscious of her body has made me hyper of aware of how I speak to her and what I say about not just her body, but mine as well. I want her to feel confident and beautiful no matter what her body looks like. I want her to learn to move her body every day because it makes her feel connected to herself, strong, flexible, grounded, and alive. Legs are for walking, running, jumping, swimming, and dancing whether they are short, long, skinny, or fat. Arms are for reaching out into the world and connecting, hugging, lifting yourself up when you fall whether they giggle or hold firm. There is a beautiful blog post about a mother who overhears her husband with their daughter at bedtime one night. The dad goes through all the parts of the body telling his daughter why they are beautiful, each body part is beautiful because of something it allows his daughter to do or because of how it aids her in connecting with or helping others, not because of its shape or size. I cannot for the life of me find the link to this blog post, but as soon as I do it will be added. In the meantime here are two other great links about body image.
I also love this website. If you have a daughter, teach, work with girls, or spend time with girls this website offers some great resources.
I urge you all to go out and do something that nourishes your mind, body, and soul today. Take care of your body so you feel alive and healthy, not so you can squeeze into a certain size or look a certain way.