Yoga is a journey that you embark on with your whole self, body, mind and soul. It’s not a gym workout, a cardio fix, or a calorie burn. And although Yoga class can, and does, offer any and/or all of these physiological effects, that is not the point. Unity is the point. Yoga literally means “union”.
I know this, but I struggle with it. I want to breathe in healing vibes and know that my Yoga practice has brought me closer to my truest self and one with the universe as a whole, but I also want to feel my muscles burn, and know that I have pushed myself, my body towards being stronger and leaner.
A Google search of Yoga bombards us with images that show thin, lean, muscular women (and men), with sweat gleaming off of their tanned bodies, wearing colorful, beautifully patterned Yoga outfits. (Yeah, I just posted about that, Yoga Pants, which lead me to a deeper conversation with myself about this.)
When I was a distance runner in my 20’s, I had a runners body. I was lean, thin and had muscular calves and thighs. When I taught aerobics, I was very skinny but less muscular as those workouts were designed to burn calories. Lots and lots of calories.
So now I do Yoga, but do I have a media defined “Yoga body”? No. I am thinnish, but I’m also a woman of a certain age. I have adult children. I cannot turn back time. (another previous post.)
I know I should accept and love my body. I know I should feel gratitude that I can still go my gym, rev up my heart rate on the elliptical machine, then hope off, do the nautilus circuit, and then grab a mat and do my Yoga practice. I also go to the studio and take two to three Yoga classes a week. My body allows me to engage in these wonderful activities. It carries me from day to day with relative ease, and I really do know that I am so very lucky.
But still, when I look in the mirror at the gym, I am shocked at the person who stares back at me. In these moments, after my workout, I still feel like that twenty something year old athletic girl, but I look at the mirror, and she’s gone. And that makes me sad.
And the realization that I am bothered by it also makes me feel badly, shamefully so. I want to accept, embrace and love the person I am today, with the body I have. But our society makes that difficult. The pressure to look a certain way is everywhere from the Victoria Secret commercials, which I despise for the way they exploit young women, to the emaciated plastic manikin’s in the clothing stores draped in the latest size 2 spring fashions.
Distorted body image and eating disorders are a real issue for women and men of all ages. The statistics are staggering.
~9% of women will struggle with anorexia in their lifetime
~1.5% of women will struggle with bulimia in their lifetime
~3.5% of women will struggle with binge eating
~.3% of men will struggle with anorexia
~.5% of men will struggle with bulimia
~2% of men will struggle with binge eating disorder
So how do I, and thousands of others, close our eyes to the images and unrealistic expectations of body size, shape and type. We are not all the same and were not designed to be. I know it’s getting better. I know there is a great movement in the media, hollywood and the music industry geared towards encouraging young women and girls to love themselves and their bodies, and this is beautiful and so important. But is it working? I hope so, but I don’t really know.
I do know that I still struggle with accepting my body, and seeing it as an amazing, wonderful vessel that carries me though my life. I still struggle with the amount of daily food intake that I allow myself, and I still want the image in the mirror to drop 10 or 20 pounds. I do not have an eating disorder, but I also do not have a healthy relationship with food or my weight.
There was a time that I did believe the saying, “you can never be too thin”. I now know that is the farthest from the truth. But the challenge I still have is to love the body I see in the mirror. To fully embrace, accept and love my body, not in spite of, but with all of my flaws. Because we all think we have flaws, even the women with the “perfect” bodies who wear the size 2 yoga pants.
I am going to spend some time meditating on this one. I’m going to introduce a new mantra for my silent time, maybe something like:
“I am perfect just the way I am. I feel gratitude for my wonderful body. I love and care for this amazing vessel that carries me through my life.”
Yes. That sounds perfect. Just like my body.