This post, by Elen Bahr, is Part Four of the Yoga and Body Image book discussion series. It was originally published at ybicoalition.com, where you can also find the first three posts.
Beth Berila and I have shared the honor of facilitating Yoga and Body Image book discussion groups in the Twin Cities since February. In May, we also traveled to St. Cloud, Minnesota (about an hour away) for a book discussion in a local studio. It’s exciting to experience the growth of the yoga and body image conversation and, with each session, I’m awed at the breadth and depth of the human experience.
Our discussion groups have included the book’s main topic areas: media, parenting, feeling excluded, making changes. Attendees share openly about the intricacies of our own unique experiences – cause we all live in the world in our own unique way. And it’s easy to see our differences. Yet, through our sharing, our differences translate into compassionate solidarity around something many of us seem to have in common:
We want to learn to live in our bodies. Yoga can show us how.
It’s true, right? We want to LIVE in our bodies. Not just exist. LIVE. We want to break through the internal and external barriers blocking the way to living as our highest selves.
May book discussion group participants shared these thoughts:
“I’m either trying to hide my body or broadcast my body. In yoga, I can BE IN my body.” (We were discussing the media body shaming/exploitation and the effect it has on many of us.)
“I thought my judgment voices were right, I didn’t have any defenses against them. Now I think needing a defense isn’t the best way for me to go. I need to find another tool. Yoga can be that tool for me. I can co-exist with my judgment voices and be OK in myself.” (Shared during a discussion of self-comparison and the internal “tapes” that run rampant in our thoughts.)
“You are only as powerful as you are on the inside. Then that power comes out. I build internal power on my yoga mat and it shows up in how I physically show up in the world.” (We were talking about how what we learn on our mats carries through to the rest of our lives.)
I can relate to all of those things. I live a great portion of my life outside my own body – reacting to internal messages, external validation, societal pressures. For me, joining the yoga and body image conversation and committing to my own yoga practice are two of the most effective tools I have to point me in the direction I want to go. My place and privilege in the world make yoga is easily accessible. There are so very many people who share the feelings expressed above but don’t have the opportunity to experience yoga as the healing/self-exploring/transforming tool that I know it is. I’ll point back to a previous post by Anitra Cottledge, which includes action items for how we can continue to make yoga more broadly accessible. Because we need to do that. And you can help.
Please ignite the conversation where you are – bring a yoga and body image book discussion group to your community. Download our FREE discussion guide or email me to talk about ideas for getting started!
Thank you for your voice, your energy and your power.