Feminism, Body Image and Yoga

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by Melanie Klein

Originally posted at Elephant Journal, June 2010. “Feminism, Body Image and Yoga” is featured in the newly available, downloadable and free, Curvy Voices, a collection of 36 personal body-loving stories at Curvy Yoga. This post is also the inspiration for her chapter in the forthcoming anthology,  21st Century Yoga: Culture,Politics and Practice, available June, 2012 (pre-order here).

It was in an afternoon yoga class 10 years ago that I realized my relationship with my body had been profoundly changed. Gazing up at my legs, glistening with sweat in shoulder-stand, I realized that I wasn’t searching for signs of “imperfection” or scrutinizing my body with the negative self-talk that too many of us have with ourselves on a daily basis—the abusive dialogue I had with myself most of my life.

For the first time I could remember since early childhood, I wasn’t critical of myself. I wasn’t looking for parts of my body to control and change.

A distorted body image, self-criticism, and the pursuit of “perfection” by any means necessary is a perverse inheritance passed down from the women in my family and influenced by the unrealistic and prolific images manufactured by the larger media culture. Given this environment, I never had a chance to emerge unscathed, self-esteem intact. The women in my family were constantly dieting, tracking calories in food diaries, lamenting weight gain, celebrating weight loss and sizing other women up. An unhealthy preoccupation with my body and food was set in motion before I hit puberty and manifested in all sorts of dangerous methods to obtain thinness: diet pills, colon hydrotherapy, fasting, legal and illegal stimulants, calorie restriction, self-induced vomiting and excessive exercise.

The routes to freedom presented themselves at about the same time, feminism and then yoga. Feminism offered the ideological tools to examine my tortured relationship with my body systematically and deconstruct mediated images. Yoga provided the practice that rooted the things feminism had taught me. It is one thing to intellectualize self-love and acceptance, it’s another to embody it.

Healing my relationship with my body took years of practice, years that were recognized that moment in shoulder-stand. That moment, absent of shame, guilt and disappointment, signaled how far I had come since I had stepped on the mat for the first time in 1996. I began practicing weekly and when I met “my” first teacher, Caleb Asch, I returned day after day, eventually canceling my gym membership and practicing with him five to six days per week for years. I didn’t return day after day with the same intentions I had for working out at the gym daily, to beat my body into submission. I returned because I couldn’t get enough of the way yoga left me feeling. Each breath allowed me to rekindle my relationship with my body, to return home fully. Returning to the mat daily, through times of sadness, heaviness, and abundance, I was able to reconnect with my body, to heal the mind/body split, to listen to my body and respect its boundaries.

Feminism and yoga raised my consciousness and led me back to myself, in love. I attribute these two complimentary systems for suturing the emotional and physical wounds and saving my life.

For this, I am profoundly grateful.

Related Posts:

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Nude Yoga for Body Acceptance

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Comments

  1. Nicole D says:

    This is really amazing because you were able to find peace with your body. This is something I have been trying to do for awhile now, and even though I know I am thin, there are still some things I always wish I could change about myself. I realize that these thoughts are probably the influence of the images I see in the media, and remind myself that I would not think there are things wrong with my body if it were not for the media and influence of others. I am cautious of my weight and know many people are extremely obsessed with skinniness, and it’s upsetting to see. I definitely don’t want to be obsessed. I can relate to you because I started yoga a few years ago and it had helped me as well. It always puts my mind at ease and I feel better about myself afterwards. Finding the strength to love your body is amazing and inspires me to do the same.

  2. Yasmine T. says:

    I remember taking yoga senior year in high school with friends just because we had nothing else to do and sounded fun. As someone who has always been an athlete, I have always loved rigorous and intense exercising that involved competition. That was just my thing. But I remember taking this yoga class and admitting that I did take it as a joke for the first couple of sessions, but realized went to the class alone once and realized the power it had on me. With that one session, I felt in peace with myself and exercised areas that I never had with competitive sports. After a couple of sessions, I also found myself more organized. I was much better on deadlines and more focused. After that one time, I attended every yoga session by myself, and really took advantage of the positive effects it had on me.

  3. I agree with the powers of yoga you claim they can have on someone. I took yoga instead of one year of PE just to meet girls. I was too shy to even talk to them at the time, anyways after the first couple weeks I started participating and stopped trying to be the “cool guy” and, took my yoga experience and use it to help with my allergies. At the time any dusty place I stepped into I would sneeze and sniffle uncontrollably and I would always look like Rudolf the Red Nose Raindeer. After mastering some kundelini yoga techniques that helped me with my allergies I had a new found respect for yoga. As far as yoga goes I believe that it should have a better reputation in men’s minds in the Western hemisphere. The typical American male sees yoga as feminine and incredible. While typically women do yoga to get toned and slimmer on a count of our societies cultivation and all the media images women see everyday and alter their minds in seeing something in the mirror that is not there. Yoga is a healing tool in many aspects of life.

  4. I have also taken yoga classes in the summer after i graduated high school and I could not be more in love with that class. All my stress and pain pent up from high school was let free. All my stress about work, diet, my body was left behind the door, the minute I entered the class. The breathing exercises brought me closer to my body as I learned different ways my body responded to different yoga positions. Instead of you judging your body and trying to make changes to it, yoga helps bring your mind and body together so that your body tells your mind what it finds comfortable.

  5. Julianne Insogna says:

    While I have heard many individuals speak about how yoga has saved them by helping them reach self-love, I was never able to reach that point of acceptance and understanding that I often hear others speak of. I am disappointed that yoga did not have this same affect on me because yoga seems to be able to mend people when all else fails. Like many women, I see myself as having many, many imperfections and try to fix them if possible. While I know judging myself harshly is only harmful to myself, I cannot seem to turn the negative self talk into a more positive conversation. Luckily, Women Studies 10 is opening my eyes and informing me about the harsh reality women live in, along with the unrealistic images we try to live up to in a world of double standards. Although I am still far away from attaining a self-loving relationship with myself, this class is helping me move closer and closer to a healthier relationship.

  6. Anna Kleyman says:

    This was such a beautiful piece to read and every word kept me lingering on. I really felt your passion and love for yoga and most of all the self love that it has given you. I truly believe that yoga can change the mind and make you love your body because yoga is such an intense “treatment” I would call it, because you are treating you are treating your body to something great. When you do yoga, it’s like a gift to your nerves. You are taking that time for yourself to focus on your body and the tension you need to release with your breathing. I personally cannot wait to begin a yoga regiment. I have been experiencing a lot of anxiety and everyone recommends yoga. So for summer break my goal is to do yoga at least twice a week! You have to stick to what you love and you’ll be able to do it. Because when it comes to being obsessed with body image and you begin a gym regiment, you easily get tired and give up. But if you indulge yourself in something like yoga or dance, you are more in touch with your body and I think more results, both mentally and physically will be seen.

  7. I never knew yoga could have such an impact. I do agree that women are too harsh on themselves on their bodies. They may say they are not trying to please males, but in reality they are. Males are the one that set those impossible standards of beauty. Women are just trying to fit into societies norms. I never thought yoga could help at all and would wonder what the point of it was. I’m glad you shared this experience because I can see how beneficial it is.

  8. jasmine M says:

    I can only hope to be able to attain the same body satisfaction that you posses. I have been slowly working towards rejecting what society has defined as beautiful and I am also embracing my feminism. In this process I am able to accept things that society have taught me to label as flaws, and it feels great. Reading this entry makes me truly happy that you have liberated yourself from this patriarchal society and gives me hope that I may one day be able to do this as well. It is amazing that yoga promotes such health body concepts and your attitude about your body speaks volumes. It shows women that total acceptance of our bodies is possible and I hope to find myself in this state of mind soon.

  9. Pauline T says:

    I can truly relate to what you say when “[you were] able to reconnect with my body, to heal the mind/body split, to listen to my body and respect its boundaries”. I too practice yoga, not as often as I would like though. I have a gym membership but I do not find working out on machines as satisfying as doing an hour of yoga. Not only does it tone the body, but it also stretches my muscles the way a treadmill cannot. The thing I like most about yoga is that it is suitable for all ages. My mother introduced me to yoga and I am happy that it is something we can do together. Although I do not do yoga enough, the times that I do do it, I feel very good about myself.

  10. Corrin M. says:

    This is really pushing me towards taking up yoga as soon as possible. I have supported feminist ideals for years, but wouldnt go as far as calling myself one. Being in college has led to a place of conscious ignorance. I am well aware of things i need help with. Such as distrorted body image. Thank you for the great class. Even though my scores may not fully show it, I have paid full attention, and have been inspired.

    “That moment, absent of shame, guilt and disappointment” I cant wait for my own moment.

  11. Berenice V says:

    I took a Yoga class thinking it was going to be easy, but little did I know that Yoga is more than just siting in a pink mat doing a butterfly pose. It is more than that, not only does it expand meditation, but it helps you connect your body with your mind. Over the course of three months I became in tone with my body and like you I stopped going to the gym and I stopped worrying about calories. I would practice Yoga helped me find a more spirited, positive perspective in life. I remember having stressful days at work or at school, and Yoga helped alive that stress. I remember that soothing, relaxing feeling afterwards once I finished a Yoga session. The great thing about practicing Yoga is that it enables you to explore your body and there are no boundaries, you would be surprised in finding muscles you didn’t even know you had. When one is constantly in a rush from the very eye waking up moment, it really helps to just zone out and relax while becoming attentive not of distractions which cause stress, but in touch with one’s body. Research shows that yoga helps manage or control anxiety, arthritis, asthma, back pain, blood pressure, carpal tunnel syndrome, chronic fatigue, depression, diabetes, epilepsy, headaches, heart disease, multiple sclerosis, stress and other conditions and diseases.Complete relaxation and meditation practice show you how to access the strength and power of your inner self for a support system that keeps you going through all the ups and downs of your life. I remember enrolling in Yoga because at the time I felt somewhat depressed, and as the course evolved, I noticed that my moods were balanced and most importantly I was becoming more bright minded, among feeling energetic and had a positive attitude towards life.

  12. Anndrea A says:

    Reading this article makes me want to meet you. Thinking back to all my encounters with women of all ages, I cannot recall one woman that I have met that doesn’t have something negative or is 100 percent completely satisfied with their body or confident and accepting of how they look. You say that you spent years of agonizing about your body, but the fact that you’ve over come that and made peace with yourself is very commendable and something I aspire to do for myself. Thank you for the motivation.

  13. I am very surprised to see that something as simple as doing yoga can change one’s way of looking at themselves. Not only that but also being exposed to different ideas and perspectives to be able to realize that you are valuable and perfect just the way you are. The constant exposure of media images seems to have corrupted many people into believing that being “perfect” is the key to being happy and accepted in society. It is these negative ideas that have led so many people to doubt their self-value and become victims of diets, eating disorders, unnecessary surgeries, and (as stated in the article) constantly looking at the imperfections of our bodies and thus lowering our self-esteems even more than they already are. It takes a lot of guts and effort to be able to realize that these ideals are not important and only serve to harm us, not help us. Being able to open your mind up to different ideas and ways of looking at each other is allowing one’s self to want to change and feel better about themselves, whether it be yoga, meditation, exercise, or even looking at the mirror in a new light. I do understand that it takes some time for these ideas to settle into our minds, but it is possible and the more people realize this the less rebellion against our bodies will exist in society; the negative images of “perfection” will become irrelevant and oblivious.

  14. Holly A. says:

    What an interesting story. I too am around family members who constantly diet, count calories, obsess about weight, and work out religiously. I myself have been a member of the gym for about 6 years and have been doing nothing but working out, but something just doesn’t click! After reading your article, I will definitely try the yoga class offered at my gym. I think for one to truly feel good about themselves their mind must be one with their body when working out. Running on the treadmill and lifting weights don’t really do much. I really hope yoga’s slow paced concentration will be much more successful.

  15. Jason Guanlao says:

    Growing up, my weight has been an issue more times than I would have liked. My weight has always fluctuated ever since I was in grade school. Once my father passed away, I remember I was a little chubby kid up until high school when I was the thinnest I had ever been. I believe that the media plays a crucial role in how women look at themselves in the mirror. I bet many women look at themselves in the mirror and count their flaws and notice new ones, because I catch myself doing that at times, and I am a male. For men, how much you weight matters as much as the next guy, but I don’t think that it’s noticed as much as it is for women. There are men in the media that have been heavy and still considered handsome. Men and women fight a different battle when going up against pounds, and I think yoga is a great way to beat the stresses of becoming beautiful.

  16. Tanya G. says:

    I have never really tried yoga in my life. After reading this blog it makes me want to try it. I want to be able to love my body and feel a connection to it. I also have a lot of people around me who are constantly dieting, working out, counting every single calorie, and doing other drastic things to get and look thin. Even though many of us try not to get influenced by other people’s behavior it is hard to avoid it when we constantly see it. The media should share blogs such as this one with us. Buying diet pills, and clothes that makes us look thinner should not make us happy, but actually accepting whom we are should make us happy.

  17. S.Lockey says:

    I think every person should find something they are passionate about that makes them fulfilled and do it. Whether it is yoga or another practice, on the road to self-actualization one needs to find their inner self and what makes them happy. Once a person does that they can truly be happy and learn to love themselves. I enjoy yoga but it does not have the same effect on me as the article describes. But I have friends that swear by it. Everyone needs to find that something. I am still searching for that something. There are so many things I do in my life that make me happy but that one thing that embodies my soul I have not found yet. I am still searching when I can find time between everything else I have to do. I really enjoyed this article and I am happy that yoga brings some people a true sense of peace.

  18. Melissa M says:

    What I will take away the most from reading this article is the sentence about the difference between intellectualizing self-love and embodying it. Because it’s so true. In reading articles and books about self-love, I know that I have intellectualized it, but I am not embodying it. I am on that journey to embodying it. I have made steps to get there but as you mentioned I still find myself criticizing parts of my body, looking at whats wrong with it. Though, it isn’t as much nor as often as it used to be, I still do it. It’s something we all struggle with especially as women. It’s a constant struggle to see these women who are in the media who are stick thin and then to go to the store to pick out clothes. to find them not fitting certain parts of my body. I had issues with my body because my hips and thighs are thicker than the average and not only that but my breasts were far larger in comparison to the rest of my body. I had often tried to tell myself to start a diet or work out so I could lose weight and lose my boobs. But in doing that, I found it never worked. It wasn’t until last year, when I realized the way I was eating was making me sluggish, and that is what got me to not diet, but to just choose a healthier lifestyle. In doing this, I find myself more energetic, and I have allowed myself to start embodying self-love and acceptance of my body. In fact my little brother had just mentioned to me how he noticed I was more comfortable in my body. So when I read about your experiences in getting to the point of loving yourself, I become intrigues about doing yoga. I am all for allowing myself to “have a relationship with my body” rather than putting my “body into submission.”

  19. Cynthia M. says:

    Yoga seems to be a very positive way to reach happiness and peace towards ourselves. I work out at the gym and I don’t really always enjoy it much. I really enjoy bike peddling, but many of the other activities are not as easy to enjoy. I get exhausted too much because I push and overwork myself. I feel like I’m working out for the wrong reasons, which is only making my workout session even worse. I am starting to consider doing yoga; I want to feel at peace and relaxed when I work out versus the feeling I get at the gym when I push myself. I guess I should also find a middle ground at the gym, and work out to stay healthy and not be so hard on myself.

  20. Sophia S. says:

    More often than not, when I look at my body I find myself critiquing every little thing. However that is not the same when I work out. Not only do I see myself in a new light when I workout, but I am more appreciative for the body that I do have. After years of being so judgmental, I finally learned to accept myself and celebrate the body that I do have. When I accomplish new feats, such as running that extra mile or beating my best time, I now am proud of the body that I do have and the things that I can accomplish with it.

  21. Brittany P says:

    One thing that truly stood out to me in this article was this sentence, “It is one thing to intellectualize self-love and acceptance, it’s another to embody it”. This is amazing and it really made me think about myself. I know that I should accept and love myself, I shouldn’t let men step all over me, I should have higher self-esteem but it is so much easier to know and think these things then to actually embody it. I portray myself to people like I do embody it but every day when I look in the mirror I always criticize myself. I always have something that I want to change and improve about myself. I think it is amazing that yoga allowed for you to except yourself. I have for quite some time wanted to take a yoga class and if it can allow for me to help with my complete self-love then it would be worth it. I would love for one day to look at myself and find that I love it.

  22. Brianna Davis says:

    I can’t really relate to yoga because i did not take it that much. But, i have always been skinny. I tried so hard to gain weight it does not work. I have chicken legs and I been running track and lifting weights for so long now but i have not seen any difference. Although after reading the other article about yoga i knew how yoga help with the mind, body, and soul. I really understood how you can go in yoga and come out a different person. It just a peaceful environment. You do not judge anybody, there is not any competition. You can be eased by the negativity and problems outside the door. You go in there and relax and let all your thoughts go. But, you have to learn the moves first. Females have it so hard to be more acceptance and appreciative of their bodies because it is targeted more. Their are all types of stereotypes for women and their body. Men do not have to worry about none of it. ” We as women should accept and love our imperfections. No one and not everyone is supposed to be born perfectly.” says Linda from a comment above. That quote is so important. I love this quote and wish women will all see this.

  23. Debora G says:

    I have not yet have the pleasure to take a yoga class, although I have heard a lot of interesting things about it. Many of my friends that have taken a yoga class describe it like you have in your article. They said they feel in tune with their bodies and the feeling of peace and relaxation is what makes them go back. I currently work out and I must say I have never had the feeling you or my friends describes. Instead I bet my body to exhaustion and every time I go back I feel I have higher expectations for myself. Yoga to me seems more like dancing because it allows you to be in total control and promotes positives through. Working out at the gym has never made me feel in control because it is a machine that tell you how fast your going and how long you been on it, there is no real interaction like there would be in a yoga class. Sadly working out does not make my happy but it’s something I must do to keep myself in shape. Although, I taken a few women study course when I’m at the gym I find myself trap in what society views as beautiful and having the prefect body is what keeps me going back.

  24. ELvis Rosales says:

    Yoga has a profound affect on the body. I have used it in the past as a method of relaxation and I have found that 1) its not as easy as it looks 2) it clears your mind and allows me to look at things from a different perspective. It is calming, yet challenging. It is great that women have seized the self hate that is influenced by our society though the media’s pressure to look a certain way and have began to feel beautiful through yoga.

  25. Sonia B. says:

    I took yoga this last semester at school and it left me with a positive attitude towards my body and makes me want to continue yoga classes. When I would hear about yoga, I thought that it was a class that taught you how to stretch and be more flexible, helping you relieve stress. I quickly learned that besides allowing you to relieve stress, it helped me connect with my body and I learned how to breathe. I am happy I took this class because if I didn’t I would have never learned something about my body and the real opinions I had about myself. I am now able to walk without trying to cover my stomach up and I can wear shorts without caring what others think of my legs. Yoga helped me focus on moves, which transfers over to my every day tasks, like focus at work, in class, at home, and even while driving. I learned to breathe when I am feeling stressed and to always sit up right and not let myself slouch because it can hurt my back. I am glad I was introduced to yoga and hope to continue exploring my body this way and getting to know myself more.

  26. Chynnassa E says:

    I have taken yoga classes myself and I love the way that it relaxes me and helps me to focus on the positive. I feel that as women, we are always so focused on how we look and we compare ourselves to the images that we see on the TV and in the magazines (those images are not reality). In order to love and accept ourselves, we must change our thinking and stop comparing ourselves to what is superficial. I feel that yoga is the perfect way to work on your body, as well as your mind…and once the mind and the body align in a positive way, accepting and loving yourself comes easy.

  27. I can honestly say I have always been thin growing up, but once I got married, and got pregnant with my daughter everything changed. After my daughter was born that’s where my anxiety began, and that’s where I started stressing about my body. I stated taking diet pills, stressing, starving myself, and overly obsessed with weighing myself everyday and night. After I lost all my weight, and looked like what I wanted to, I thought that would be enough, and I would be happy. But in reality it wasn’t, I was still obsessed. I still weigh myself twice a day, and try to keep my eating to a limit. The first time I took a yoga class, was when I went in for an extra credit assignment for my Soc 324 online class at CSUN, and right after the presentation, I attended a free yoga class. That was my first yoga class, I was a bit lost in the beginning, because I thought we would do as an instructor does, but instead we closed our eyes and fallowed the voice, and did as the voice had said. I can honestly say that was the first time I felt free, and free of all the stress I have about my issues, and anything related to my body and anything else in general. I felt free. Since that day, I talk about my experience with a lot of my friends, and we have been taking classes, and haven’t felt this great about ourselves as we do now. My husband even sees a different towards my attitude, and how relaxed I feel , rather than talking about weight all day long.

  28. Raven G says:

    Though i have only taken a few yoga classes, I can relate your love for it, with one of my own. Like yoga, dance is good for your mind, body, and spirit. Despite the fact that dance keeps me in good physical shape, I dance because i love it. Dance allows freedom. Free in the mind, body and spirit. When i am dancing i find myself at peace with my body. I feel connected and at home. Dance has taught me to chase perfection, but in a healthy way. For example, i focus more on the steps and the way they make me feel, rather than comparing the size of my thighs with the girl next to me. I have found a new love with my body through dance because without this body i wouldnt be able to do what i love. I think like yoga, my relationship with dance give me self love and acceptance.

  29. Stephanie Farzam says:

    I hate to be “that person” but isn’t it possible that such a great relationship with yoga could be spawned by the fact that she was becoming more lean from the workouts and thus, happier with herself. I myself tried yoga for 6 months and I thought it would really improve my body image, but instead, I just became more motivated to become fitter. I feel like such a failure for even having screwed up yoga, something that should be natural for everyone! Anyways, I really hope to pick it up again, and doing meditations because I really need to make a big change within myself if I want to be a happy person. Yoga definitely seems like it could be the path considering all of the stories I’ve heard about it. This blog is especially inspiring.

  30. Elizabeth D. says:

    I think any form of physical workout can be good or bad links to body image. Women have such pressures to achieve beauty and thinness. Reading this article opened up many memories of how I felt about my body. I was a victim of self-criticism, low self-esteem, and a self-body hater. I went through some rough stages when I was taking dance classes. I always wanted to take dance classes, and I never did until I was in high school. I enjoyed taking ballet, jazz, and modern dance but I always linked the love for dance with my weight. I always felt that I was too big to be in dance so I stop taking dance classes. Not until college I gave myself another chance to take dance classes again and during my first year in college I explored the different types of dances. I end up finding a love for tap dance and ballet. I realized that I just love to dance ballet and tap dance. It made me feel good inside. I began to challenge myself in perfecting my steps and turns and my mentality of my weight dwindled. I became more aware of what my body can do and realized that I didn’t need to lose weight to be a good dancer. All it took was have the love for dance and be proud of the accomplishments that I reached through my dance. I end up making peace with my body and it feels great.

  31. Kaitlin V says:

    I completely understand where you are coming from. Having suffered obesity all my life as an overweight pre-teen, teenager, and young adult, I finally decided to take control of my life and my body. I lost most of the weight and still have some to go, but I suffer from so much body dismorphia. I don’t see my body as the the one that lost almost 60 pounds; I see myself as the fat girl still and it is so hard to overcome. Fortunately, I have taken in running as my form of body freedom. It doesn’t matter that I am still considered overweight and hate my body; my imperfections are what make me who I am. All that matters is me and the road when I am out there; I crave the endorphins and the feeling I get when I know I’ve run my furthest distance or my fastest mile. Yoga was nice for me but I feel the same way you feel when I get on the road with nothing but my iPod, GPS watch and my very comfortable pair of running shoes. Nobody can take that feeling away from me and I always feel like a badass when I’m done.

  32. Angelica E. says:

    I have never attended a yoga class, but after reading this I am very inspired to do so. I like many other women I’m not very comfortable with my body there is something I would like to change. I know I am not very fat but I feel that I am and, losing weight would not hurt. The reason i want to lose weight is too look better, but then I question myself who said looking better requires for me to be thin. No one really said that but I have seen it in the media all my life. I hope to one day be able to feel comfortable with my body, and be able to have self-acceptance. To me self-acceptance is something very powerful a woman can have. Without self-acceptance I don’t think i women is able to have self-love and by having both of these I feel it can be life changing.

  33. Kevin Moore says:

    I agree with Heather and Byron saying is there people that bring negative comments around, why do we keep them there. Personaly for me yoga, does not help me feel better about myself, but i do see that it does make people feel more calm about themselves and it seems that they feel better about themselves.

  34. Noel L. says:

    I am so glad to see that yoga has made a holistic different in you body. It seems like a very personal journey, one that reaches physical and emotional health not through beating up your “body to submission” but gently, paying attention to everything going on in your body. Gyms can be very harmful places, and can be triggering, so it is good to know that there are alternative ways to healthy bodies and minds without the competition, the brutal workouts, and the self-deprecation when you don’t look like the idealized woman.

  35. Maira Pacheco says:

    I had no idea what “Yoga” was. I never had an actual meaning of what yoga is, but I had an idea. The idea that I use to have of yoga was an exercise. I really thought it was just a work out to lose weight or just to be fit. Through the reading I learned that yoga is exercise and meditation. I was able to learn that yoga works out every part of your body. You usually get a physical, mental, and spiritual work out. I also think that yoga could be very helpful for women. It is helpful because yoga can help women have a better relationship with their body. Through yoga a woman can learn to accept their body. Women will learn to appreciate themselves and love themselves completely. I have come to the conclusion that all women have insecurities. In order for women to have a higher self-esteem they should learn how to accept themselves just the way they are. There are many women that stress out and I think the best way to release their stress and their pressure is by enrolling in a yoga class. Yoga will help you gain a higher self-esteem.

  36. Adrienne S says:

    I think that this feeling of self-love and contentment depends on the mindset you have when working out. While I love yoga, and it is one of my favorite ways to work out along with dancing, I have experienced this feeling through other more intense forms of exercise as well. While yoga’s goal isn’t usually to simply lose weight and slim down like other kinds of exercise, I’ve met many women who go to yoga classes and body bash the entire time. I believe that this feeling of complete acceptance of one’s body can be achieved through any kind of work out as long as you have the right mindset. After going for a long jog or bike ride outside, I usually return home feeling as content as described in this post. It’s not just yoga that makes someone feel happy and comfortable, but rather finding a form of exercise that you truly enjoy and not focusing on what others look like or are thinking. Once you have achieved this, then you can really appreciate your workout and the beautiful strength of your body.

  37. Samantha H says:

    I can relate to your relationship with yoga, but my love is more towards aerobic classes. I do yoga occasionally, and I enjoy it, but it also frustrates me because I am very inflexible and impatient. I know those are both 2 very good reasons to do yoga, but I find my peace when I am doing high energy classes like zumba and kickboxing. Doing those classes are what led to me lose weight and gain a lot of self confidence and learn to accept myself. When I do those classes I get all my aggression out and have fun while working out. The best part of the classes is that it is not a chore for me to go to them, I actually enjoy going. The way you feel yoga gives you a release, I feel the same about my aerobic classes. I do them at least a couple of times a week and they always give me more strength and energy and make me feel really good. I think everyone needs to find that physical activity that gives them joy and makes them closer to being at peace with their bodies.

  38. Kayla Ainsworth says:

    I am currently in a yoga class myself and the feeling as you describe it is so true. I even leave my phone in my bag and do a hour and forty minute yoga practice and by means I love being on my phone. You really do get in touch with your body and breath, a release of tension which excites me and relief of stress. It really has your mind connecting with your body, things you thought you couldn’t do, can be potentially be done without question. I feel free and confident in my body and letting it move in all these different positions that help make me contribute to smooth easy breathings and to loosen up the tension in my mind and body. Yoga is a practice that many should at least try once.

  39. Heather Stevens says:

    Byron’s comment says it all. If there are people around us that make negative comments about our bodies why do we keep them around. We justify how they make us feel by agreeing with them because no one would “tell someone they were fat” unless they were really fat right? Our distorted body image ourselves because of this constant strive to get something more whether it is thinner, bigger butt, bigger boobs, or less cellulite. We all need something that is going to bring us to our “happy place” and take us away from the “ways of the world” and back into a reality that absolutely no one is perfect. Perfect does not exist. Only the idea exists that drives us all crazy it seems. Not only is yoga relaxing, but it is a form of meditation and rewarding through these.

  40. After reading this article I want to start a Yoga class I’m a full time worker and student and find myself stress out most of the time. Many women find themselves being to critical on their body image not understanding that what truly matters is your inner self. But I think alot has to do with your peers you watched them care about their weight and you start doing the same thing because that’s all you see. I think parents should talk to their children and let them know that your body does image does not matter as much as your inner self. Another factor is media plays a big role in providing girls with the wrong idea that your looks are the most important thing.

  41. I have struggled with a distorted body image my whole life. It eventually led me to bulimia and I really damaged my stomach. After that I had to take a step back and realize how crazy this all was. I learned to hate my body by watching the women in my family and my friends. Just like this article, they were all obsessed with dieting and talking about weight. I am still struggling with my weight and I recently starting taking yoga. I really like it and I think it has been helping my stress. I do feel that I am looking negatively at my body in the mirror but hopefully with time that will stop.

  42. There are many women out there that have body issues and aren’t satisfied with themselves and are constantly trying to improve them. People don’t think that yoga can relax a person and make them feel good about themselves. I have heard many stories where a person took yoga one time then they were hooked, for me this wasn’t the case. When I think of yoga it makes me feel calm and relaxed, but while im doing it I feel like I need to get up and be more productive with my workout. The media has such a big influence on women and they then feel like they have to look and act a certain way and if they don’t then no one will like them and no man will fall in love with her. Everyone is different and each person needs to find what makes them calm and to not feel overwhelmed with what the media is saying and to be happy with their body.

  43. Salina G says:

    This is so profound. I have heard time and time again how Yoga is not only beneficial to your body, but also your mind and spirit. I am not a believer until I see or experience it myself. I did try Yoga once and I did like or feel that the instructor was trained to teach Yoga, as he did not have the Yoga voice or attitude, if there is one. I have very little time for any type of exercise at this point in time, but I do want to experience that feeling of accepting my body as it is and feeling good emotionally. I have promised myself to engage in something as soon as I complete this semester.

  44. lucero Medrano says:

    I’ve never done yoga, partially because I’m not very flexible and partially because I know I wouldnt be good at it. However, I’ve always been the chubby kid in class, so my body was always on my mind. As time went on, I finally had the realization that I would never be skinny. Not because I wouldn’t put the effort into it, but because I liked myself the way I am. I stopped torturing myself and my mind over what people thought of me. I finally got to the conclusion that beauty wasn’t what others saw, but how I felt. I realized that there is beauty in everything. I realized that there was beauty in the peacefulness and harmony I felt within myself. I realized that my neuroticism wasn’t necessary. I had finally realized that I could love my body and break free from the oppressive media, my oppressive family that called me fat ever since elementary school. I realized that my body was that, Mine, why should I torture it and tear it apart over someone else’s opinion if I was happy with my rolls? The freedom I felt was wonderful, the feeling of being empowered within myself was invigorating, even though I’m 21, and young; I felt alive and vibrant for the first time in my life. I felt free, free from self-loathing and free from insecurity.

  45. I never thought that yoga could allow people to accomplish this. I too suffer from being able to love my body the way it is. I recently gave yoga a chance for the first time and it truly is amazing. After my yoga workouts I feel like a new me. I also started a workout routine to fit my schedule. I work full time and go to school full time so sometimes I find myself working out at 10pm at night. I have lost a total of 14lbs but it is not the pounds that really matter to me, it is the way my body is changing and how I am loving how I feel inside. Yoga truly is amazing. I would recommend it to anyone. I loved this post.

  46. Angelica Oseguera says:

    There was a time when I was interested to go see what yoga was all about. I went and it seemed to me like everyone was just there to see each others apparel and if you weren’t wearing tight spandex you we not going to fit in. I judged the class based on that, i wasn’t wearing spandex therefore i left. In reality, practicing yoga is all about being at peace with your body and the way you control your breathing. It takes a lot of discipline because by practicing yoga shows that you accept your body the way it is. I, as most women have struggled with my body image, i can’t say i am content with what I have now, but have not allowed my body image to affect me completely. All in all, no matter what body image one has they will still feel like an outcast because we want more to it. Women are never happy and will never be regardless of how much advice they get. If the individual doesn’t want a change for the better, nothing will ever matter.

  47. Alicia S. says:

    I remember a few years back when I was in High School I had tons of time to be in certain sports such as track and field and basketball. At that time, it was extremely easy to have time to play at sports since I really didn’t have the responsibility to work in my house at the age. Now, I am in my 4 year at CSUN, and it is difficult for me to stay in shape as before. I know I am one of the many female adults that gain weight in my college years. Some of these factors are not having time to exercise and having difficult to manage my time correctly. This then shows how through my freshmen year, I did not watch what I eat, in which it had lead to gain 30 pounds in 4 years. Even though I would like to be in shape and be playing sports such as in high school, the college experience has lead me to be expose to Yoga in which it helps me by relaxing my mind. I absolutely enjoy doing Yoga since everything I go, I find myself knowing myself better in which my mind relaxing and gaining that scene of relief. Yet, many people may not like Yoga since you are not sweating as much as a person would run in the treadmill but what really matters is the emotions and how a person releases their stress though Yoga. This then leads how Yoga is really a discipline that a lot of people don’t take seriously. At last, people won’t really know what Yoga means until they actually take a class and enjoy how their emotions and problems release by doing Yoga.

  48. Alina Bergelson says:

    This article was definitely an eye-opener. I never thought that yoga could have this type of effect on the human perspective. I know that yoga has great health benefits from staying in shape to relaxing and de-stressing but increasing self-esteem and changing perspective on your own and a healthy body image? That is astounding! Every person is diferent and the way they react to specific workout regiments and exercises will vary. I personally do not like yoga because of how slow paced it is but I know many friends that love yoga and the benefits it gives them. It is interesting that yoga was able to transform this womens view of her own body and how to respect it when it takes women sometimes their whole lives to master this. We are so socialized into a narrow box of beauty and a proper body image that it is hard to love oneself when comparing to an unrealistic image. If yoga can do this for one person, maybe I should give it another shot.

  49. I had no idea that Yoga can have this type of effect on you. I have only heard the idea behind yoga and how serene it can be. I guess with that note, I can’t say I am surprise as the feelings you had when doing yoga. I think that aside from the media we consume daily and interactions we have with people (work, school, home), we seek a place we can escape and come to peach in mind, body and spirit. It is unfortunate that you went through those moments in your life wanting to look a certain way instead of loving your self. However, I am glad you found an avenue for change. After reading this article, Yoga is definitely something I want to try. Thanks for the insight and!

  50. Destiny O says:

    I have practiced yoga before and just from my experiences during those four months I was able to notice a difference in the way I felt towards my body. Instead of feeling ashamed and disgust, I felt proud of my body. I felt proud of my body for being strong, for working hard and for being there for me. Since I haven’t practiced yoga in about four years, I took on running instead. Running has also helped my body image in a similar way to yoga because you have to clear your mind and calm yourself in order for your breathing to get on track. In clearing your mind and just focusing on your body rhythm, you’re really able to forget about everything else and just appreciate what your body is doing for you. I think that everyone needs some sort of outlet where they can forget about everything else and just reflect on how beautiful and strong the human body can be when you’re using it for the right things.-D.O.

  51. Jessica E. says:

    Yoga and feminism are two things I would have never thought to put together. And Yoga in particular I never thought was more than just an exercise plan. Clearly the two elements joined together create one heck of an outcome. Thank you for sharing your experience and allowing women everywhere to see that they are not alone in their self-hating mindset and providing us with a way out. I’m sure the journey was difficult but the outcome makes it all worth it. I long to reach a day in my life when I too will realize that I am comfortable and love my body and most importantly myself. Like the old saying goes, practice what you preach and this is a clear example of that. Once you can embody the practices you so admirably preach to others you can teach them so much more. Thanks for the inspiration.

  52. Almost every woman I know has a preoccupation with their body and food. I agree with Byron’s comment about our class discussion on the topic of befriending someone who talked to us the way we talk to ourselves regarding our bodies. We can be so hard on ourselves and it doesn’t help, just hurts. Each one of us need to find that “ah-ha” moment regarding acceptance of our bodies and yoga was your moment. I unfortunately haven’t found that tool or resource to allow myself to see my body clearly.

  53. Benjamin B says:

    The obsession that individuals have today to be fit and have the perfect body is fueled by our nations addictive mentality of going to the gym. I myself have been victim of this gym craze. While I started making gym visits in order to make conscious health efforts, it turned that I became more and more image infatuated than health motivated. I constantly made efforts to have six-pack abs and a rough muscular toning. For this, I felt I had to find a new outlet to be healthy without going to the gym, which is why I started running. When I started running, I felt like I truly stopped my focus on weight loss and results, and started recognizing how beautiful life was. I would run to the beach, run on hikes, and even just run around my neighborhood. My sister, on the other hand, found her outlet in yoga. She would always tell me about how amazing her yoga sessions were, but mu ignorance of the subject made me uninterested. I believe that everyone should find their outlet that makes them feel comfortable and proud to be in their own skin. When you are conforming to other people’s standards, you are not truly appreciating what life has to offer and you are only alive to please others rather than to please yourself. Moreover, we should stop looking as weight loss and physical results as competition among people and start focusing on our individual selves.

  54. David A. says:

    Wow…I don’t even know what to say. I’m at a loss for words right now. I’m really happy that feminism and yoga provided you the tools to love yourself unconditionally. I truly hope more women are able to reach such an enlightened state of mind and body, whether it’s through yoga, running or something else. It’s ironic, you wouldn’t think a male such as myself would go through something similar, but feminism also provided me the necessary framework to deconstruct my sexist ideas and beliefs; most of which I wasn’t even aware of! It’s lead me through a journey where I’m finally able to fully express myself and BE myself. F*ck patriarchy and the media’s ‘ideal’ of what women should look like. I’d gladly choose a REAL woman who loves herself over any of those fake, photoshopped woman all day, everyday. Thank you for sharing!

  55. I feel that in order to really have that true balance of self, one should practice what they preach in life, not only through the actions they display toward others but toward themselves, not just in principle alone but through personal, positive affirmations, being mindful of one’s own psyche and being respectful to themselves first before aiming to please others. The other day during class we discussed how hard people can be on themselves, as they tend to feel isolated, comparing their differences to standard media depictions of ideal beauty by which they beat themselves up for not emanating. One wouldn’t subject their entire well being to the intolerance of others in the same way that they could easily do that to their own self. The point in class was that if that internalized voice were a physical person saying such things, one wouldn’t even bother to keep them around. So why continue with denigrating one’s own self? Through Yoga and Feminism, people can disseminate the aspects of society and culture that affect perceptions of self, and with conscious insight and personal discipline, filter through that garbage and develop an intrinsically fortified mentality of mind and body.

  56. Linda Piyawadhanachai says:

    I agree that mass media has played a very large role in women’s’ lives today. We are presented with images of the female body that idealizes how we should look like. Women are indeed self conscious and are motivated to look perfect because thats what society portrays a perfect female human being should look like. I see in magazines that models have a waist size of 00 and a bust that looks disproportionate with mile-long legs, might include that the face has no pores too. There is no perfect person. Computers and programs have the advanced technology to create an image of perfect bodies that doesn’t even exist. We as women should accept and love our imperfections. No one and not everyone is supposed to be born perfectly.

  57. Just before reading this article, I was just changing into some shorts and thinking to myself, “I have to work harder on my legs at the gym.” I go to the gym about 5-6 times a week, but it seems as though that’s not enough. I can totally relate to this article in the sense that every girl goes throughout life talking to herself in negative ways and judging her body in a negative way. It’s as though no matter how hard you work, there are always things to pick at and complain about. Unfortunately through media as the article mentioned and through the learning’s of other women in our life that we have seen dieting, putting them down, constantly worrying about weight, we have picked up that unfortunate bad habit. Instead of loving ourselves no matter what dimples, marks and all, we have learned to be critical of ourselves. Until we as women learn how to love and appreciate ourselves, we will not be able to love anyone or accept love from anyone until we are able to love ourselves. I have taken a few yoga classes and I can say that I really enjoyed it. I felt relaxed and was constantly reminded to clear my mind and just let my body relax and take over. Now after reading I will definitely continue on in yoga and hope for this much of a positive experience as well.

  58. Erchanik P says:

    Like many young female adults, I struggle with my body image. Trying to get your body to look a certain way so you can fit the norm in our society is constantly in the back of my head. Every magazine I take to read, every time I log on to the computer the homepage of any given website has some type of body image, celebrity or famous actress on the front page. Learning to accept your body is the hardest thing a female can overcome. I myself have taken many years of ballet, and know very well what it takes to keep your body in shape. I have also tried yoga, and countless membership at numerous gym’s. I strongly believe that no matter how much advice another female can give to another female about loving our bodies, our images, there comes a time when you yourself have to accept that your body is great and if you love it so will everyone else. Until that moment in time comes, women loving their bodies is going to take a long time.

  59. Gloria T. says:

    Wow, did not know that Yoga can change somebody’s mind like that. I always thought that yoga was another saying, “an absent mind, is the devil’s workshop” but I guess you have to be absent minded sometimes and relax, or reset those engines. Reading this article made me want to go practice Yoga, I have never been a fan, because I could never control my breathing. I guess it takes a lot of discipline to do that. Something to think about. But I guess when you put your body in so much stress like this girl did, you have to escape and blank your mind out. That has never happened to me, but it wouldn’t hurt to try some yoga.