• The Importance of a Positive Body Image

    “I felt like shit about my body most of my life.”
    – Melanie Klein in Yoga & Body Image: 25 Personal Stories About Beauty, Bravery and Loving Your Body

    I remember when this cute pixie of a woman walked into class on the first day of my massage therapy training at the School of Integrative PsychoStuctural Bodywork over 20 years ago. I was absolutely certain she had it all going on. She was fit, adorable, energetic, and bright… she just oozed confidence and self-assuredness. I felt even more awful about myself.

    Disappointment with my body, frustration, dissatisfaction, and shame started at an early age and lasted years. I know a lot of people can relate and have had similar experiences no matter their age or background. Statistics show that toxic body image issues have increased in scope and severity across sex and gender, sexual orientation, age, size, socioeconomic status, race, ethnicity, and culture as well as physical (dis)ability. Discomfort in our bodies, shame about our bodies, efforts to manipulate and control our bodies despite its protests and needs, as well as the endless negative self-talk denigrating our bodies is all too familiar across the human spectrum.

    My story isn’t groundbreaking. Not at all. That’s what makes it so important. It’s far too pervasive and incredibly toxic. Your body image story and body relationship is important.  It’s important because a negative body image impacts our mental, emotional and physical health in a laundry list of ways. Far too many people experience overwhelming low self-esteem and spend an exorbitant time, money, and energy trying to “fix” the perceived problem. Not only does this impact and limit the individual, but it also strikes a blow for the entire society.

    What if we utilized these personal and social resources to cultivate skills, talents, and interests outside our “body project”?

    What would become possible?

    What if we saw ourselves as enough?

    What if we accepted ourselves as we are at each stage of life?

    What if we moved beyond accepting our bodies and began to truly embrace them?

    What if we spent less time focusing on the size, weight, and shape of our body (or the bodies of others) and spent more time focusing on the critical political, social, and economic issues that need attention?

    So, no… body image issues aren’t groundbreaking and new, but they’re more important than ever to solve. Let’s not allow this normative pattern of negative body image experiences to be considered “normal.” It’s not and this can be changed.

    Do you know a great place to start?

    Make a decision and a commitment.

    As I wrote in Yoga & Body Image, “Feminism freed my mind and yoga freed my body.” That’s where I began to understand, deconstruct, challenge, and reject the messages I’d absorbed my entire life.

    This is how I began a shift in my body image paradigm.

    And then I stepped onto the mat and learned to listen to my body. I learned to be present with what my body needed moment to moment. I learned how to practice acceptance, forgiveness, and gratitude. Yoga, meditation, and mindfulness practices are a powerful way to practice and embody a new body image paradigm.

    That’s how my shift was deepened.

    Are you ready to make a shift of your own?

    NOTE: This post is part of a collaborative media series organized and curated by Omstars and the Yoga & Body Image Coalition intended as a deep dive into yoga & body image.

    By Melanie C Klein

     

    Melanie C. Klein, M.A., is an empowerment coach, thought leader and influencer in the areas of radical self-acceptance, authentic empowerment, and supercharged confidence. She is also a successful writer, speaker, and professor of Sociology and Women’s Studies. Her areas of interest and specialty include media literacy education, body image, and the intersectional analysis of systems of power and privilege. She is the co-editor of Yoga and Body Image: 25 Personal Stories About Beauty, Bravery + Loving Your Body (Llewellyn, 2014) with Anna Guest-Jelley, a contributor in 21st Century Yoga: Culture, Politics and Practice (Horton & Harvey, 2012), is featured in Conversations with Modern Yogis (Shroff, 2014), a featured writer in Llewellyn’s Complete Book of Mindful Living (Llewellyn, 2016), co-editor of Yoga, the Body and Embodied Social Change: An Intersectional Feminist Analysis with Dr. Beth Berila and Dr. Chelsea Jackson Roberts (Rowman and Littlefield, 2016), Yoga Rising: 30 Empowering Stories from Yoga Renegades for Every Body (Llewellyn, 2018) and the co-editor of the new anthology, Embodied Resilience through Yoga (Llewellyn, 2020). She co-founded the Yoga and Body Image Coalition in 2014 and lives in California. melaniecklein.com/

    IG: @melmelklein  @ybicoalition 

    Connect: melaniecklein.com, ybicoalition.com, yogaandbodyimage.org, yogarisingbook.com

    Photo by Diana Feil

  • How to Stress Less (Hint: Trust Your Body More)

    Leaning into trust can shape your life for the better.

    Where do you feel stress in your body? Have you ever noticed?

    Is it a tightness in your chest, or a heaviness in your forehead? It could be a nervous frenzy in your fingers, an unsettling feeling in your stomach, or maybe a combination of all the above.

    The past year and a half has been hard. Like, really hard. As yoga teachers and practitioners, we are fortunate enough to have incredible tools available to us, based on the mindfulness practices we have put into place. Wellness routines and rituals are important, necessary, and SO powerful in some instances.

    And sometimes, we all just need to take a break—a breather from all the breathing exercises.

    At the beginning of 2021, I was feeling some shame around how all of these incredible mindfulness tools I’ve brought into my life just weren’t helping like they used to. The high stress and anxiety that permeates our world now is heavy, and exhausting. So, of course, another juice cleanse should do the trick, right?

    No?

    Okay, maybe a 30-day meditation challenge? Or another virtual yoga class? A run? Order the newest personal development book?

    I realized in my rush to find something to help me cope, I was seeking outside of myself. I was focused on what else I could be doing, and this was leading me away from just being with myself.

    And this makes sense! Society and culture have continued to teach us that we do not fully understand ourselves, and we must seek external experts to find how we can be our “best” selves”. Examples of this can be seen in all areas of life:

    What our bodies should look like

    What degrees we should earn

    What roles we should inherently excel at

    I’ve decided that my “best self” is the self who resides within my own inherent wisdom and that wisdom comes from my listening to my own body.

    Throughout all of this seeking, I was also trying to pick the perfect word of the year. (Another thing I kept pushing down my “self-care task list”.)

    I started to tune in and ask myself, “What am I really trying to solve with my word of the year?” And it came down to stress. I want to be less stressed and less anxious and more sure of myself, ideas, and abilities.

    So I went further: what is causing me stress?

    I wanted to better understand what those outside influences were making me feel internally. I was feeling unsure of myself; I was feeling incapable and powerless and crushing amounts of self-doubt.

    So what did I need to do?

    TRUST.

    When I decided to try on the word “Trust” for my word of the year, the Universe winked and said, “Alright, are you ready for this?”

    Does this sound familiar? You’re working on a project, but your mind is being pulled in another direction because you “should” be working on that other thing instead. So you shift gears, but now you’re feeling guilty for abandoning that other project. But, oh yeah, you’re ALSO supposed to be doing this other thing and people are depending on you and you’re literally just letting every single person down.

    As I was trying on my word of the year, I realized most of my stress came down to me not trusting that what I was saying, doing, or being in that moment was the “right” thing to be saying, doing, or being.

    I would continually second guess if what I was doing was the “right” choice, and in doing so it did two things:

    The quality of my attention and awareness plummeted because I was feeling the need to hold space for multiple different “shoulds” at one time.

    Those physical cues I stated earlier? They would start up in force.

    After making this realization, I created a new intention for myself to help me alleviate and avoid unnecessary stress reactions:

    I am making the right choice because it’s the one I’m making.

    This simple phrase has become an incredible tool for me to shift out of my stress reaction into a place of choice. I encourage you to try out this intention!

    When you notice stress happening (again, I’ll point to those physical cues because our bodies know what’s up), take a moment to go in. Notice, where are you actually experiencing the stress in your body?

    From there, you can chart where the cause meets the effect. If you find yourself doubting your experience, remember
    to trust yourself. And listen to the wisdom of your body.

    Learning that most of my stress is unnecessary and self-inflicted has opened me up to be more creative and curious and joyful in my life responsibilities—it reminds me I am utilizing my power of choice. I am choosing
    to bring my valuable time, attention, and energy to this current thing, which means it’s what I’m meant to be focusing on. Because it’s what I chose.

    NOTE: This post is part of a collaborative media series organized and curated by Omstars and the Yoga & Body Image Coalition intended as a deep dive into yoga & body image.

    By Jordan Page

    Jordan Page is a traveling nomad who takes her love of yoga with her everywhere she goes. She also believes you can learn a lot about someone from their Hogwarts House. After completing yoga teacher training in 2017, she and her husband converted a school bus into
    their tiny home in which they now live and travel full-time. She has taught yoga in multiple states around the U.S. and in 2019 she completed her professional coach training through iPEC and earned her CPC. Through yoga and coaching, she works to empower and inspire women to own the life of their choosing through conscious, purposeful intention. She is purposefully living, while not taking things too seriously.

    Find on on Instagram here and here.

    Photo by Ismael Sanchez from Pexels