By: Melinda Parrish
When it comes to our bodies, we as women tend to place a great deal of pressure on ourselves to achieve certain results. We deprive ourselves and push ourselves in order to whittle down, tighten up, drop dress sizes, and increase our level of attractiveness. We exalt uber-thin (sometimes, dangerously thin) bodies through images of “thinspiration.” We put these images out on social media and tell the world, “This is what I’m striving for.”
When we are pushing so hard to achieve these body goals, what we’re really doing is enacting violence on ourselves. Often we prioritize the achievement of these body goals, and the lengths we are going to achieve them, over our relationships with others, and our own happiness and comfort.
Have you skipped out on family/social functions, spent money you could have directed towards other things, or been so mentally preoccupied with your physical appearance that you’ve neglected your own needs, or the needs of others, all in the name of losing weight?
For most of us, the answer to most (if not all) of these questions is, “Yes.”
This is a struggle I know well and have shared about through the #healthyatanysize community.
When I was attempting to bounce back from my second back surgery, I was pushing myself very hard to recover quickly and get back to the body I had as an NCAA Division I college athlete. Because of the lack of compassion I was extending myself during that time, I was left with very little capacity to show kindness to others. It was like living in a world that was all sharp edges, with no place to find comfort or relief.
I shudder when I think about some of the interactions I had during that period, both with myself and with other people. Even now, I have days when I allow a goal that I’m trying to achieve (or something that I’m beating myself up for not doing well enough) to overshadow my heart’s true desire to act with kindness. We all have our moments, and the point is not to achieve perfection, but rather to immerse ourselves in ideas and habits that lead us closer to being the women that we want to be.
One of the primary reasons I’ve maintained a commitment to my yoga practice over the years is because it helps me stay connected to the part of me that wants to act with kindness, and practice ahisma, the sanskrit term for compassion. Underlying principles like these are why a regular yoga practice can support a better overall quality of life, physically and emotionally.
In yoga, I practice accepting things as they are in the moment. I practice letting go of resistance, and embracing change and growth. I practice flexibility, adaptability, and learning to laugh at myself. I practice shifting my attitude towards those around me from one of competition to one of community. I practice celebrating where I am, and not constantly wishing I were further along. All of these things make it easier for me to be a kind, open-hearted person, both on and off the mat. Yoga has taught me to embrace my body as it is, rather than constantly strive to change it, and transformed my relationship with my body from one of violence to one of harmony.
There’s no body worth attaining at the cost of our character, our happiness, and our relationships with others. Instead of working to have the best body with the tightest abs, let’s strive to have the most genuine smile and open heart. Instead of “thinspiration,” let’s fill up our Pinterest feeds with memes and images of “kindspiration.” By embracing our bodies as they are and showing them love through movement, rather than tearing them apart, we heal ourselves and extend that to the people around us as well. Doesn’t that feel better?