I now feel at peace with my body. I appreciate what my body can do. There are times when I feel triggered by social media, but yoga philosophy has taught me how to become more resilient to these triggers.
I remember the day my life changed.
I sat on my yoga mat after my first 75-minute hot yoga class. I was drenched in sweat when class ended. I experienced a feeling that I hadn’t felt before, gratitude. During the hour and a half class, my body bent, twisted, and inverted in ways that I hadn’t experienced before.
I was so proud of my body for what it accomplished on the mat that day. I was proud of myself for what I accomplished on the mat. It was such a cathartic moment because I had never experienced this feeling before.
See, ever since I could remember, I hated my body. I remember being four years old and wanting to wear a t-shirt swimming to hide my belly. I did not have the language at the age to articulate what I was feeling; however, I did have the ability to avoid situations where people would look at me. As a child, I would avoid my friends’ pool parties in the summer by faking sick. I wouldn’t play sports because I did not want people to see my body jiggle when I ran around.
My body image issues got worse as I got older. At six and a half feet tall, I stood out from my peers when I desperately wanted to fit in. In the high school locker room, I would have a hairy chest when my peers were all bare-skinned. And despite having braces, the shape of my front teeth caused me to have a small gap that would never go away.
I went all-in on diet culture as a teenager as well. I would starve myself so I could fit into the slim fit clothing all my friends would wear. I would feel guilty when I ate too much so I would excessively exercise to burn off those excessive calories. I would stand over a trash can and shove a cookie in my mouth, chew it up a hundred times and spit it out just so I could experience the flavor without having to consume the calories.
I was a hot mess.
My body image issues and self-hatred landed me on a couch in my therapist’s office. She suggested that I try going to a yoga class to help my body image.
I absolutely refused. I told her about the first yoga class that I had taken. I was a broke graduate student, and a cheap Groupon deal enticed my friends and I to sign up for a yoga class. Throughout the class, the teacher would come by and adjust my posture. Every time she touched me, I flinched. I hated being touched by a stranger. Moreover, I got so stuck in my head worrying about what I looked like and worried that I was doing yoga wrong.
The experience was so terrible that I vowed to never do yoga again.
My experience with therapy wasn’t the greatest. I would sit on the couch and list all the reasons why my body is the worst. My therapist would grow frustrated with me and tell me that my thoughts were not objectively true.
Though, I found that it didn’t matter what was true or not true. What mattered was how I felt about myself.
My therapy sessions ended abruptly soon after, and I poured myself into my work. Meanwhile, I would tell myself that I would always hate my body, and I would just need to learn to accept it.
My life changed when my then-boyfriend convinced me to go to a yoga class at a studio by our house. I reluctantly agreed to go. We checked in, and the instructor was by the front desk, and I blurted out, “Please don’t judge me for how bad I am at yoga.” She laughed and told me that nobody was bad at yoga.
So here I was on the mat, having this amazing feeling of accomplishment.
I was hooked. I immediately bought a pass to the studio and took all the classes I could take.
Over time I stopped hating my body for what it wasn’t and started to appreciate everything my body could do. It was different than any other form of physical activity because the emphasis on mindful breathing got me out of my head. Yoga was different than running, rowing, or cycling because I wasn’t trying to burn calories. I was just trying to be present. I wasn’t trying to compete against anyone, and I never felt like I needed to compare myself to anyone.
My enjoyment of yoga led me to learn more about yoga philosophy and the eight limbs of yoga. I started to become mindful of the values of my life. I was able to shift my mindset from a place where I felt inferior to a place where I felt empowered.
I now feel at peace with my body. I appreciate what my body can do. There are times when I feel triggered by social media, but yoga philosophy has taught me how to become more resilient to these triggers. It is so liberating to feel this way.
I am grateful for everything that yoga has given me. I want to share my love of yoga with the world by enrolling in a teacher training this year. I want to specialize my teachings so that way I can help others who struggle with their own body image so they can feel all the positive benefits of yoga.
NOTE: This post is part of a collaborative media series organized and curated by Omstars in collaboration with the Yoga & Body Image Coalition and WOC + Wellness intended as an honest, thoughtful and holistic exploration of intersectionality, wellness and sustainable action with the intention of creating sustainable social change.
By Cory Harris
Cory Harris is a body image coach who overcame his own agonizing body image dissatisfaction through the practice of yoga. His yoga journey began in 2019 after being convinced to take a vinyasa class with his friends. The experience was life-changing and yoga became his obsession. Cory aspires to become a yoga teacher in 2022 so he can teach yoga to individuals with body image dissatisfaction.
Cory can be found on Instagram at @cory_does_yoga.