I couldn’t begin to count how many headlines and articles I’ve read lately all with the same basic message: “Stop worrying about having a ‘bikini body’, and love your body the way it is”. Finally, bloggers, celebrities, and real-life girls are fighting back against the body-shaming, the diet trends, and the pressure to have the perfect summer body. This negativity is all-too prevalent in our society, and it’s overwhelming for anyone who is less-than-content with their self image. This new trend of body love is a refreshing change, and I’m thrilled to see so many girls embracing it.
That said, learning to love your body is hard. I’ve been at both ends of the scale – overweight to underweight, even at a healthy weight for a while – and I don’t think I could say I loved my body at any point. Tolerated it, sure. Even kind of accepting it in a “it is what it is” type of way. But loving my own body, the way it is? That one’s tricky.
I know I’m not alone in this struggle. I know I’m not even in the minority in feeling this way. Even the girls parading around in underwear for the annual Victoria Secret fashion show have some little flaw they’re not 100% happy with. How the hell can we be expected to love our average, far-from-perfect bodies, when even top models struggle?
I think the key is to worry less about what your body looks like, and more about what it can do. If we stay focused on physical appearance, there will always be something that could be improved. The pursuit of the tiniest waist, the biggest muscles, or the most-toned abs is never ending, so save yourself the stress. Forget about the size or shape of your body, and just take a moment to be amazed by what your body is capable of.
For me, that wonder comes to me at yoga class.
I started my yoga journey at one of the unhealthiest times of my life. Stuck in a state of denial about my decade-long eating disorder, it was a wonder my body could keep up in class without collapsing mid-warrior pose.
Since then, I’ve had the “I need help” realization, met with doctors, seen therapists, and started giving my body the proper nutrition it deserves. I’m far from “perfectly recovered”, but I’m miles from where I was a year and a half ago. In day-to-day life, my body is still something I struggle to embrace, and there are days I cringe and want to cry at what I see in the mirror. But at yoga class, I can definitely say I like, and am proud of, my body.
I can feel how much stronger I am now than at the beginning, and it feels good. I can see how much farther I can bend, and how much deeper I can stretch, and I can’t help but be impressed with how far I’ve come. Each time I chaturanga my way into upward-facing dog, I’m proud of how much arm strength I’ve gained. The little accomplishments add up to a whole lot of body-appreciation.
I feel like yoga came into my life at the perfect time, when I needed it most. It’s an escape, a de-stressor, and a teacher of life lessons. It’s helping me learn to love my body, regardless of how it looks, and that’s a lesson I think we all need to be reminded of once in a while.