How we relate to our Body Image
How should we relate to our bodies and how does this relationship affect our sense of self, self esteem and health? What experiences, beliefs and habits about our bodies do we acquire through our life cycles? When we can answer these questions we can also see how our body image affects our emotions, behaviour and how we relate to our partners, friends and family.
During adolescence into adulthood suddenly we are confronted by the physical changes in our body, our new found sexuality and how the world perceives our body image. We all form a body image during this period. This is formed not only by the physical sensations of our body and how it looks, but it is heavily influenced by perceptions, the media and our emotions.
Our body image is not static, it is a perception of the size, shape, boundaries and emotions evoked by that perception. For example on a good day we may like the way our legs look but on a day we are feeling down we can fixate on how fat the same legs look. This is all a mental perception, your leg shape would not have altered in one day.
In yoga we focus on a healthy, reality-based body concept. We emphasis a postive body image and constructive habits to promote feelings of physical happiness and wellness. We try to understand where any negtive perceptions of the body have come from. Because if our bodies sense of self is distorted, negative and unreal there are many unwanted consequences.
Our body image perception comes from:
- Our inner experiene of our physical body, health, sensations, movements.
- Our outer experiene of the body comes from the third person point of view, ie what our friends, family, culture and the media say about our body image.
For young women, the image is largely dependant on their mothers and fathers, they will take on the one which is most negative about body image. This may distort their sense of self, they may over eat to numb or protect themselves from life.
Young men can be affected by overly protective mothers or overly aggressive fathers. This may distort their body image greatly, so they feel they need to put on extra muscle to protect themselves from life.
When we feel negative feelings about our body we tend to try and get rid of these feelings. At this point we can either create good coping strategies:
- Like better eating habits,
- Self acceptance (if you want something to be difference than it is, you must first accept it as it is)
- Increased physical activity.
Or negative demoting habits like:
- Emotional eating /over eating
- Dieting and rapidly exercising to loose weigth
- Obsessesive thoughts about body image or weight
For women especially negative feelings about their body image are supported by western culture, mass and social media. A young women’s subconscious is deeply imprinted by unrealistic images of what a desireable women’s body should look like. We are told that if we do not look like a model in Cosmopolitan then we will not be attractive to men. The imprint on our adolescent mind at this stage of our development cannot should not be undersestimated. It is at this time when we most want to be socially accepted, which affects our biology, motivation and emotions.
During yoga we reset the body image, by renewing a positive relationship with the self. We do asanas to feel the strength, flexibility and sensations in our body. This mindful movement, experience of feeling our internal energy, being part of a group or community and accepted as you are, grounds a positive self and helps align our body image with our current reality.
Notice when you eat your next meal, do you chat with people, read, look at your phone or watch T.V? This demoting habit is about distraction and reward. If you do this you will tend to eat your food unconsciously, eat too fast and then not notice when you are full so over eat. Try instead to spend a few seconds looking at your food before you eat it. When you start eating concentrate on every bite, chew, enjoy the sensations and flavours. Notice when your body feels full. Your mind will never be full, it will always want more because your mind does not have a body.
Notice when you exercise, are you unconscious? Watching T.V to distract you from the physical sensations of your body? If you do this you may tend to strain your muscles, over or under exercise, not feel physically, mentally satisfied after exercising. Once again just like in a yoga practice, try to stay present and focussed as you exercise and see the difference. Get rid of your expectations of what this exercise will make you look like and enjoy the benefits of regularly physical movement and the sensation of wellness it brings to your being.
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This week’s classes:
Mon 22 August 6.15-7.30pm Kundalini Yoga @ Prana Lounge, 60 Horton Place, Col 7
Tues 23 August 6-7pm Meditation @ The Om Space, 185/9 Havelock Road, Col 5
Wed 24 August 4.45- 7am Sadhana @ 9 Greenlands Lane, Col 5 (FREE)
Wed 24 August 7.15-8.15pm Kundalini Yoga @ the Om Space, 185/9 Havelock Road
Fri 26 August 6.30-9pm Community Class & Celebrate Yogi Bhajan’s Birthday, Gong and Kundalini Meditation @ the Om Space, 185/9 Havelock Road (by Donation) bring some food to share for the pot luck party afterwards.
Sat 27 August 10-11am Kundalini Yoga @ Prana Lounge, 60 Horton Place, Col 7
Sat 27 August 5.30-7.00pm Healing Gong Bath @ Prana Lounge, 60 Horton Place, Col 7