Emotions begin in your body. It’s why you can feel your feelings. But today, more than ever before, people are deeply disconnected from their bodies.
A first-grade teacher asked her class, “Students, what is the purpose of the body?” A little girl shot her hand in the air and exclaimed, “To carry the head around!” This disjointed relationship between the thinking mind and the feeling body is where we often find ourselves, manifested in painful body image issues. (Surveys show that 91% of women express being unhappy with their bodies but only 5% actually possess the body type portrayed in the media.)
If you struggle with detachment and body image issues, you are not alone. Yoga can help you heal and reclaim the connection to your body by creating a healthy understanding of the emotions, feelings, and sensations you feel. It can help you address your self care needs in a conscious way, while cultivating a new appreciation for the body you inhabit.
Yoga is an embodied practice — you do it with your whole being. Merriam-Webster defines embodied as “to make concrete and perceptible.” When you step onto a yoga mat, you move your body in specific ways while attuning to the felt sensations that surface. The movement itself helps you make the “concrete and perceptible” connection between emotions and sensations that emerge within your body.
With this new awareness you are empowered with self-knowledge and can consciously reframe your inner dialogue to speak to yourself in ways that are useful and supportive — something no-one else can do for you.
Licensed therapist Jodi Strock specializes in supporting clients struggling with body image issues. A long time yoga practitioner herself, Strock explains, “The practice of yoga requires the mind and body to connect as one unit, reshaping neural pathways and, over time, contributing to a shift in the relationship one has with the body.” Through yoga, you can renew your relationship with your mind-body connection and invoke your personal responsibility to treat yourself in a healing way from the inside out.
As a student of yoga you’ll learn how to be with your body as it is. You learn to honor your limitations as well as explore your capacities for strength, balance, and flexibility. There is no perfect pose; there is nowhere else to get to. The intention is to experience the present moment, and your body, right here, right now.
And yes, sometimes that can be uncomfortable… but discomfort is not only okay, it can be your greatest teacher!
Yoga teaches you how to be with discomfort and how to stay with your experience in a kind, patient, and compassionate way.
Strock says, “For people confronting body image issues, one of the benefits of yoga is learning to discern between pain and discomfort. Many people lose sight of the difference between the two, thus looking to avoid it all together. A skilled teacher points a student to trusting their own experience, to stop when pain is present, and to take one more breath when discomfort arises. Learning to tolerate discomfort is an invaluable ally in healing body image issues.”
It is important to be challenged in your practice, and to find a teacher who will positively encourage you to practice yoga without punishing yourself. Yoga practiced with awareness and deep attention will change your life. Step onto your mat with the deepest aspiration of your heart, learn to navigate and (gasp!) accept your limitations, and finally, fall into profound gratitude for your body which is beautiful beyond comparison, radically unique, and strong beyond your wildest dreams. It never needed to be any different to be perfect, accepted, whole, and complete.
Lauren Eckstrom is the Executive Director of Inner Dimension Media and also a Yoga Alliance-certified E-RYT 500 instructor. Her Holistic Yoga Flow classes combine creative sequencing with a focus on safe, sound alignment and are enhanced with meditation, pranayama, and yoga philosophy for a practice lived both on and off the mat. Lauren leads workshops, retreats, and teacher trainings in the Los Angeles area as well as internationally. She has been featured by many prominent yoga brands such as Lululemon, Alo Yoga and Manduka. She is the co-author of a comprehensive, modern-day yoga book entitled Holistic Flow: The Path of Practice. Practice with Lauren online at Inner Dimension TV.