Be Happy in Your Body

Nancy Haines, Gentle Yoga - Fall 2012

The Issue with Body Image

Regardless of body shape or size, many women today struggle with body image issues. The majority of women don't like what they see in the mirror, and images in fashion magazines represent an unattainable goal. The lack of self-esteem may come from the media, peer teasing, sexual harassment, or comments from parents.

Exercise can help us to feel better about our bodies. Some studies have shown that female athletes feel better about their bodies than do non-athletes. However, other studies showed that athletes in disciplines that emphasized thinness - like gymnastics or figure skating - were more likely to have body image issues.

Yoga Emphasizes Self-acceptance

A study published in 2005 showed that Yoga set itself apart as far as how women of all ages, shapes, and sizes felt about their body. Jennifer Daubenmier, research psychologist, postdoctoral scholar, and Yoga practitioner, decided to focus her doctoral thesis on whether Yoga can help women feel better about their bodies.

Daubenmier questioned 139 women. She divided them into three different groups: one group practicing Yoga; one group doing aerobics; and one group doing neither. The group practicing Yoga not only felt better about their bodies, but was more in tune to their bodies as well – for instance, they knew when they were feeling tired or sick. Often times, people with body image issues have difficulty recognizing these things.

"Yoga disengages you from judging your body and allows you to just experience it. And over time, that changes the program in your head." -- Jennifer Daubenmier

My Experience

Perhaps the non-competitive nature of Yoga makes the difference for people who struggle with self-esteem. Yoga is about being in the moment, staying centered, and relaxing. When I focus on myself and my breathing instead of what everyone else in the room is doing, I become more self-accepting and at peace with my body and what it is able to do.

"Yoga isn't a miracle. But it does allow us to recognize the miracle we inhabit, to move from a world that emphasizes physical beauty and ideal body shapes into one that teaches us to honor the power our body offers." -- Dorothy Foltz-Gray

Work Cited:

Foltz-Gray, Dorothy. “Happy in Your Own Skin.” Cruz Bay Publishing, Inc., 2012. Web. 02 Oct. 2012.