Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com
A few years ago, I tallied up how many diets I've been on in my life. That number? 65. (Yes, you read that right.)
That was the moment in movies when the skies parted, sunlight shone through, and a chorus of angels began singing. (Not literally, of course, but about as close as you could get.)
I finally got it: if 65 diets hadn't "worked" by making me into the newer, thinner, better, no-problems version of me, why would a 66th?
So I went back to the drawing board.
You see, after so many years on relying on the external wisdom of diet books and their associated authors, I knew something had to change. I'd given up any semblance of internal authority or wisdom I'd ever had in hopes that someone outside of myself would know what was best for me.
And by" best for me," I obviously mean a magic secret delivered by elves on the backs of unicorns for how to wake up thin. Because everyone who is thin is automatically happy, healthy and carefree, right?
External to Internal
At first, I had no clue where to begin. How could I possibly begin to reconnect with and repair my relationship to my body? And by the way, did I even have a body? I was so distant from it that sometimes I wasn't completely sure.
And then I remembered a little something that had been supporting me for years: yoga.
Yeah, that yoga — the one that encourages you to take a deep breath and feel what’s going on in your body.
Of course, I hadn't been doing any of that. I'd been trying to sweat it out in the back corner of each class, hoping no one would notice that I was the biggest girl in the room — by a long shot — praying to come to class the next day looking like the sprites next to me on the mat.
But since that had yet to materialize (8 + years later, so you can't say I didn't try), I thought I might need a different approach.
And so began my journey to know my own body and (gasp!) listen to it. Although therapy, books, and journaling helped, it was yoga that gave me the concrete tools to bring it all together and actually apply it in real time.
Remember that breath-thing I mentioned? Yeah, I tried to forget it, too. But fortunately, our bodies won't let us (because otherwise I *so* would have given that up 15 years ago in order to shave a quarter pound off the scale in the morning).
This one is great because it's an instant reconnector. When you wake up, get dressed and convince yourself your yoga pants have shrunk overnight, close your eyes, take a deep breath and sigh out the exhale.
(Quick tip: another thing that works here? Put on a different pair of pants. Seriously. Sometimes it’s that simple.)
In yoga (whether in class or at home with a video), we're often asked to notice what's happening in our body. For years, when my teacher asked me to feel what was happening in my baby toe during Warrior 2, I thought she meant it metaphorically. I literally did not think anyone could notice that.
But that's the funny thing about noticing: the more you invite it in, the more it unfolds. And this skill is key to improving how you feel about your body because, you know, you can actually identify how it feels in the first place, which is a pretty essential starting point.
Some days in your yoga practice, it can feel great to have a teacher guide you. But other days, what you really need is to be guided by your own body, to get on the mat and just do what feels good.
Now, disclaimer: if you've never done this before, you may feel ridiculous at first. I did. It was a great opportunity for my inner critic to rear her head and tell me how I had no idea what I was doing, couldn't trust myself, and might as well go watch TV. But since I don't like to get bossed around (even by my own self!) I persisted.
And I found that doing this helped me tune into what my body needed, and from there I could meet that need. Talk about a trust exercise! No falling back into the arms of coworkers you're pretty sure are going to drop you anyway involved. (Phew!)
I'd love to hear how this might show up in your life. How has yoga helped you reconnect with your body and improve your body image?