We have a serious problem ladies. Nearly ever women I have ever spoken with candidly, has admitted to me that they are currently insecure about their body or have been in the past. In fact, according to a study on dieting in America, roughly 90% of women are unhappy with their bodies and resort to dieting to achieve their ideal body shape. 90% is huge! What are we all so insecure about?
A big issue here, is that most women are striving to achieve an "ideal body" shape that is impossible to achieve healthfully or at all. Only about 5% of women naturally possess the body type typically portrayed as ideal in our society through the media. As a society, we need to greatly expand our idea of what beauty looks like, in terms of size, shape, and color. And us as women, we need to stop buying into the bullshit idea that there is only one ideal body type.
The other issue lies in our fundamental understanding of who we really are. According to yogic philosophy we are not actually the mind or the body, we are consciousness or awareness experiencing this world through our mind and body. Unfortunately, from very young we are taught that we the body and this can be difficult to un-learn. A more appropriate understanding of the body would be that it is a gift given to us; to travel in, to move, dance, play in, to work with, to love with, to take care of and to honor, but not actually who we are. In the paraphrased words of my teacher Mynx regard the body a precious vehicle, the one and only vehicle you get in this lifetime.
Since we believe we are the body. We equate it to our identity and measure our self worth on what our bodies: look like, what other people think they look like, what they can or can not do, how strong they are, how skinny or tall or fat or tan or hairy, on and on... In our society everyone, but especially women, are valued and judged according to their outward appearances, rather than their intelligence, their character or their spirit. We are all held and hold ourselves, to this unachievable standard of beauty or health "the ideal."
This bring us back to the original problem. The media has made us to believe that all our body vehicles should all look the same if they are considered ideal/beautiful/healthy. Not only do only 5% of women naturally possess the body type typically portrayed as ideal in our society through the media, the other madness is that these women portrayed in the media are also highly modified. They have personal trainers, personal chefs, nutrition consultants, plastic surgery, dermatologist, cosmetic products, photoshopping, etc. However, we are all held to the same standard of beauty or health regardless. A healthier solution would be to look at the world through the lens of Ayurveda.
According to Ayurveda, bodies can vary a lot in size and shape according to which doshas are present in the body. There are three main dosha types Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. Dosha are bio-energies, that circulate in the body and govern physiological activity. These bio-energies are made up of a combination the pancha mahabhutas or the 5 great elements. Vata is governed by elements of air and space, Pitta -fire and water, and Kapha- earth and water. All of us, are born with some combination of the three doshas in varying ratios. The amounts of Vata, Pitta, or Kapha in our constitution will impact the way our bodies look and what we need to do to take care of them. Ayurveda embraces many different body types as healthy and beautiful in their own way.
This is something I disparity wish someone had explained to me as a child. I still remember comparing myself to my sisters who were/are much more slender than I am due to their constitution. I grew up thinking that there was something innately wrong with me, since I did not look like them. For a long time I did not trust my body and was less than caring or kind to it in thought or deed. It would have just been nice to know simply there is nothing wrong with me, I just have more Kapha in my constitution and they have more Vata. Which would explain the difference in shape and how our bodies behave.
According US Department of Health and Human Services, almost half of American children between 1st – 3rd grade want to be thinner and half of 9 - 10 year old girls are dieting. This behavior is learned from adults. If we as adults cans learn to love and except our bodies now as they are, not as they were, or how we want them to be we can start to change this frightening trend. Self-love and self-acceptance are contagious, when you love and honor your body as is, you give others permission to do the same. No one needs this permission more than young girls, so if you have young girls in your life, talk about it and lead by example.
The best way to go about this radical self-acceptance will be different for everyone but here are some suggestions that have really helped me to on my journey towards self-love.
6 ways to love your body using Yogic and Ayurvedic wisdom.
- Think of your body as a precious vehicle for the soul, not who you are. According to Yoga we are something much more valuable, precious, divine, and infinite than just the body and the mind alone. The body and mind are tools we can use to fully realize our true nature using the practices of yoga. But until you are enlightened remind yourself to not measure self worth, by the appearance or performance of your body.
- Practice ahimsa -non harming. Yamas are ethical guidelines for yogis to follow in their day to day life. Ahimsa, non harming, is the first and most fundamental of the Yamas. Try to apply this principle to every aspect of your life, especially pertaining to the body. For example: Eat healthy a exercise because you love your body not because you hate it. Do not deprive yourself of foods you love, rather eat the foods that love your body. Everyone's body is different and it will require some research on your part to figure how best to nourish your unique body. Change the intention behind how you eat and how to exercise, it will change everything. Eat clean because you want to nourish your body, not because you are trying to change it. Look at exercise as self care, not as a punishment for over eating or cause you want your body to be different. If you a injured or sore, give yourself recovery days and honor your energy and trust your intuition.
- Examine and refine your self talk. Apply Ahimsa non-harming also here in the ways you talk to and about yourself. Notice the ways that you talk to yourself about your body in your thoughts as well as with others. What do you think when you look at yourself in the mirror, when you get dressed in the morning. Do you compare yourself to other women in your life or in the Media? How often do your put yourself down through out the day either a loud or to yourself? According to Yoga, we are born with and develop certain samskara. Samskara are our mental, physical, and emotional patterns, that when repeated become stronger. When you start to explore your patterning look with eyes of compassion, samskara can be either harmful or helpful, some of the harmful patterning will be painful to look at. When you are ready you can begin to replace the harmful thoughts with kinder ones. But be patient with yourself depending on the strength of the samskara, they will take some time and persistence to remove. Meditation is the recommended practice to remove negative samskara.
- Focus on self-love- set up self care rituals, for no over reason than to show yourself some love. This will also help set into motion more loving thoughts and healthful behaviors. Something I did was create a self love journal, where I wrote down one thing that I liked about myself everyday, it felt awkward at times, but it helped to create more positive thought patterns. Other examples: buy yourself flowers once a week, get a foot massage, take a bath with rose petals and bath salts. Do things that make you feel pampered and loved.
- Stop buying into the bullshit- idea that there is one ideal body type is insane. One way to help with this is to cut back in media: television, magazines, instagram.... whatever it is for you that sends you down that rabbit hole of comparison and self criticism. Studies show the more media you consume the more insecure you will become. Stop Comparing yourself to other women, or the ideal body type portrayed in media. Try to see the world through the lens of Ayurveda, where we all have a different constitution that is uniquely beautiful and perfectly our own.
- Stop waiting to love yourself- Ego says, “Once everything falls into place, I'll find peace" Spirit say "find your peace and everything will fall into place." -Marianne Williams. Body confidence is radical self acceptance. As women we need to accept our bodies as they are right now, without changing anything, or wanting it to be different. It is only when find peace and embrace yourself as is, that everything will fall into place.