give yourself some love

Either you know someone with chronic body-image issues or experience it yourself; it's a fact that's hard to avoid in our society. As a yoga instructor, I see this self-deprecating issue surface in a the studio in a very real way, rearing its ugly head during practice. Some students are stuck in a cycle of destructive habits, while others are working to evolve through yoga. Many new students want to know how many calories they'll be burning at a hot yoga class or when they can expect to see real results. I don't always know what to tell them, but I wish I could tell them that it doesn't matter. To come as you are. Let yourself be. That losing a few gallons of sweat or pounds of fat will most certainly not make you happy.

I get that goals can be beneficial and I fully understand that a healthy yoga practice can bring confidence and inner peace. The big difference here is the motivation behind the goal. Are you working from a place of positive motives such as health and longevity, honoring your body when you need to rest? Or do you often exercise from a place of compulsion, worry or fear, beating yourself up when you're tired or skip a workout? The energy that you bring to the gym or your yoga practice is either a powerful tool or a dangerous poison.
As Bryan Kest so eloquently says: "If you bring your shit into yoga, you turn your yoga into shit."
And this sage advice is not just for yogis. If you think that rushing to the gym will help to solve your body image issues, think again. The thing that many people don't connect about traditional, regimented or "no pain, no gain" exercise routines is this: If you're hating your workout everyday or forcing yourself through a miserable routine that you don't like, your mind is running circles in a vicious cycle of negative energy. You might literally have an internal dialogue or mantra of "I hate this," "This is miserable," "I hate my body"...etc. You're not trusting your instincts. So...guess what's actually going on when you're struggling through a workout? You're releasing loads of stress hormones all the while. Do you know what stress hormones do? They slow down your body's natural processes. They can cause you to gain weight. They weaken the immune system. They can aggravate and cause depression. So even if you feel temporarily "better" after working out or glad that you made it through, you are perpetuating your own toxic cycle of negativity.

We all need to learn to let go of control in some respect. Clinging to the illusion of control of our lives, our bodies, our jobs, our relationships, yoga...etc. will only exacerbate our dissatisfaction when things aren't perfect. Life is not perfect and neither are you, but that's okay. Learning to accept that inside and outside is a small, yet substantial part of your overall quality of life.

If you've never been satisfied with your body or your life, I don't expect that reading these few paragraphs will cause some sort of revelation. Habits like this aren't broken overnight. But maybe the next time you find yourself lingering in front of the mirror for a little too long, or stressing over your diet, you might think of this and remember how important it is to break the cycle. Try some gentle yoga or meditation, confronting yourself for a bit. Or, just take a few tips from "Jessica," below. :)