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Yoga’s Impact on My Body Image

There was a time in my life where I thought that being miserable and wanting to throw up from over-exertion during a workout was the way it was supposed to be.  I recognized my discomfort, but I told myself that I needed to get used to it.

I believed that the only way to keep my body—and thus my worthiness—in check was strict and militant diet and exercise.  I even used to work for a diet company.

I was wrong.

A while back, after making the commitment to change my lifestyle and embrace real health and wellness, I took action.  I hired a life coach, read self-development books, and worked actively every day to derail my insecurity.  Even after so much progress, something else was still not quite right.  This gym thing felt so forced and wasn’t benefiting me physically or mentally.  I needed a better way to move my body in a way that felt good.

So I started practicing yoga.

Prior to this, I had dabbled briefly in yoga, but still held the common misconception that, one, you have to be flexible to do yoga, and two, it’s just stretching and won’t give you a “real” workout.   At 6’2”, I have the whole “tall and awkward” thing down pat.  Would I even fit on a yoga mat?  Will I even feel like I did anything or just snap a hamstring?

Well, let me just try it.

I started with YouTube videos (shout out to my favorite, Yoga With Adriene!) and began to understand the rhythm of flows and the basic poses.  After just a few practices, I felt something that I had never experienced from any previous gym workout: My body and my mind actually felt good.

I’ve been at it ever since, and in seven months, I’ve made more improvements physically and mentally than I ever did at the gym.

Of course there are the physical benefits, as with any exercise regimen—strength, flexibility, and balance.  But yoga also provides a tool to deal with stress and ease through active and passive poses.  It also guides you to practice mindfulness by focusing on the details of each pose and how it feels physically and mentally (read this).  These mental benefits follow you after your practice into your everyday life.

I have been taking advantage of all that yoga has to offer.

Instead of doing mindless sets and reps at the gym just to get it the heck over with, yoga asks me to focus on the quality of my movement, engage every little muscle, and center my mind on what I am doing in this moment.  I’m not thinking about what my body looks like because I’m too focused on what it’s doing.

Yoga also asks me to listen to my own body.  On days I’m full of energy, I like to do more fast-paced vinyasa practices to build strength.  When I’m sore, I’ll opt for a more restorative and gentle practice.  If I feel tense in my mind or my body, deep stretching and flexibility-based practices are my go-to.  Off the mat, I can apply this same intuition to what nutrition my body wants to eat that day rather than a prescribed diet.

Fun fact: My body has been functioning 100% better since I stopped the “healthy” eating plans.

Girls, this post isn’t a hit piece of the gym life.  Plenty of people can go to the gym, use a squat rack, do their thing, and find that it lifts their spirit and makes them feel great.  It just didn’t work for me and yoga does.  I believe that movement of some sort should be a part of everyone’s life, if nothing else as a way to honor and celebrate these bodies that we get to dwell in.

Ask yourself what your body is yearning to do and go do that.  I’ll bet it knows better than your self-judgment does.

Oh, and they do sell extra long yoga mats, so, yes, I do fit.

Namaste, Tall Sisters!

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