I recently attending a session on Yoga and Body Image presented by Janet Lowndes and Sarah Harry, community partners for the Yoga and Body Image Coalition. I have always taught yoga from the perspective of connecting inwardly (thanks to my wonderful teachers), and this presentation affirmed the importance of this approach. When we consider body image in terms of a yoga practice, this may include body weight, shape, gender, age, flexibility and strength. For many, the way we view ourselves will stop us from ever entering a yoga class.
I love this quote from Rachel Brathen, a New York times best seller, motivational speaker and international yoga teacher.
Yoga should be a practice that invites us to look inwardly, connecting with how we feel rather than how we look. “What’s happening inside my body”? There are many benefits to developing this interoceptive awareness: self compassion, a positive mental outlook, emotional coping, attention to self care and wellbeing.
In yoga, the process of turning our attention inwardly is called pratyahara. We naturally explore pratyahara in relaxation and meditation, but do we turn our attention inwards as part of our physical practice too. Do we listen to the constant messages from our body (whether to deepen or relax into a pose), are we guided by the quality of our breath and a steadiness of mind?
Here are some ways to bring more inner reflection and peace into our practice.
- Radical Acceptance – seeing things clearly as they are, in a way that is self-compassionate and non-judging. “I am already enough”.
- Learn to be at peace with ourselves and the world around us.
- Discover we are more than our thoughts, emotions and life experiences.
- Learn to respond, rather than react to life.
- Learning to listen to our bodies rather than fighting against them. Be kind and gentle with yourself.
- LOVE YOUR BODY. Love it, nurture it, respect it, be kind to it, be grateful for it, celebrate it’s strengths, and befriend it.
For more details on the wonderful work Janet is doing in terms of Yoga and Body Image, visit her website www.mindbodywell.com.au