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  • Christina Helms

Yoga and body image: My podcast debut

Yoga and body image

I recently had the pleasure to talk with Maureen Kritzer-Lange, MSW, LCSW on her podcast titled “My Secret Life with an Eating Disorder.” We chatted about the benefits of yoga for our mental health and specifically for those who struggle with disordered eating and negative body image. Though I’m not an expert in ED, the teachings of yoga have a lot to say about our relationships to our bodies, our minds and how these two can work together more harmoniously. If you would like to take a listen click HERE.

Sadly, the majority of people struggle to have a positive view of their appearance - in fact more than 80% of women and 70% of men are critical of their bodies, most often when looking in a mirror, trying on a bathing suit or trying on clothes. It’s for this precise reason that you won't find mirrors at either of our studios. BKS Iyengar said “yoga is a mirror to look at ourselves from within," in other words, rather than paying attention to our external form, through yoga we cultivate deeper levels of sensitivity to our internal experiences.  This is a crucial distinction and in some ways speaks to the current debate between the  body positivity movement and body neutrality.

While body positivity encourages acceptance and love for one's body regardless of size, shape, color or gender, body neutrality goes even further by suggesting that our inherent value is entirely separate from our physical form. This aligns with the concept of non-attachment, a core tenet of yoga philosophy, which teaches us to detach from transient aspects of ourselves, including our physical bodies. Body neutrality is about appreciating what the body can do regardless of what it looks like.  When we consider the original intention of asana (physical posture), which was solely to prepare the body to be able to sit for long periods of time in meditation, we can see the emphasis on functionality over form.

The evolution of yoga asana (physical postures) over time has indeed seen changes, but the emphasis on the internal experience over external appearance remains constant. Viewing yoga poses as tools to align and harmonize the various layers of our being, or 
“sheaths” – physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual – highlights the holistic nature of the practice. By deepening our connection to our bodies through yoga, we shift from perceiving them as mere objects to experiencing them subjectively, focusing on how they feel rather than how they look.

This approach can be transformative for individuals struggling with body image issues, as it encourages a shift in perspective from external validation to internal awareness and acceptance. By cultivating a deeper understanding of our bodies and their capabilities through yoga, we can develop a more compassionate and nurturing relationship with ourselves, fostering greater mental and emotional well-being.

1 Comment

Mar 05

I’m intrigued by body neutrality as a concept. Thanks for offering this. As a mom of three girls and someone who has struggled with body image fad long as I can remember, this hits well xx

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