photo 2photo credit: Anna Johnson Photography

On Saturday afternoon, I attended the Practice of Leadership panel at the Yoga Journal LIVE! Conference in San Diego. The Practice of Leadership is an ongoing discussion, first originating at the Yoga Journal LIVE! NYC conference. That session had an emphasis on social responsibility and corporate leadership while Saturday’s session was primarily on body image in current yoga culture.

The panel was made up a variety of speakers, creating a dialogue between Yoga Journal, Lululemon and the community.

The first question of the day set the intention for the rest of the discussion: “what is body image?” Body image was defined as not our actual bodies, but rather a psychological blueprint, an image we’ve conjured up about ourselves based on experiences we’ve had. Our bodies are reality, whereas body image is subjective.

A particular ideal that is perpetuated by yoga culture is the image of a “healthy body”: the skinny, flexible caucasian woman. This is what we are taught “health looks like.” But you can be healthy (active, happy, free of disease) without fitting this ideal image of “health.”

We’re constantly being pressed with certain ideals (namely the tiny, chiseled athletic woman who stands as the definition of health), whether its through magazines, tv, advertising, apparel, social media (primarily Instagram).

This discussion reminded me of a post I had written earlier this year in January titled, “Letting Everything Go on The Mat,” where I talked about negative thoughts and self-loathing that entered my mind while on the yoga mat.

photo 1photo credit: Anna Johnson Photography

For the longest time, one of my goals was to “do yoga in a sports bra,” meaning being skinny enough that yoga bends and forward folds wouldn’t cause unsightly stomach rolls. I’ve also been guilty of having thoughts like, maybe if I do 30 consecutive days of yoga, I’ll look like a “yogi.” Maybe if I only focus on yoga (instead of other activities), I’ll look like a “yogi.”

However, even in the months since this was written, I’ve come a long way in loving my body. Even though I exercise and eat clean, I’m striving for positive change and improvements, rather than hating my body.

I used to think people were lucky if they didn’t carry an ounce of body issues. However, I’ve realized everyone has body image issues, they’re just formed in a variety of ways. I’ve learned over time that everyone is so involved with themselves — what they look like, what others think they look like — that they hardly place judgement on other people. They’re too busy placing judgement on themselves to be judging you.

So breathe. Relax. Be active. Be happy. And be your own kind of healthy.

What are your thoughts on body image and what’s perpetuated by yoga culture?

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