A recent survey of young British women found that of the 2,000 interviewed, only 8 percent were happy with their bodies. A whopping 90 percent of the teenage girls interviewed thought they needed to lose weight, were already on a diet, or were simply “unhappy” with their appearance. These are startling facts, but even more unsettling is the way that young women are coping with these body image issues. Many turn to anorexia or bulimia as a way to feel better about themselves. A bright spot in this unsettling news; however, is that yoga may not only help us actually obtain a better body, but love the one we already have, more.
An Australian study just published in the journal Nutrition found that women who participated in yoga and meditation programs had a better overall body image, and also were more likely to act in healthy ways to actually control their weight, including eating more healthfully and limiting their portions as well as exercising and cutting down on sugars and unhealthy fat consumption.
Women who practiced yoga and meditated were not only happier about how they looked, but were more accepting of their body weight, too.
Why Yoga and Meditation Help You Love Your Body More
There are likely several reasons why yoga is so effective:
- Yoga helps us develop tensile strength, a more effective breath, and more supple muscles. It also helps to promote respiratory and cardiovascular health, making it easier for people to participate in other methods of exercise. Thereby increasing the likelihood that they will stay active.
- Yoga and meditation help reduce stress. There have been hundreds of articles linking stress to an increased appetite, loss of sleep (which helps our bodies to regulate digestion, hunger, and emotions that might cause us to binge on certain unhealthy foods), and help to control hormones throughout the body that contribute to a positive outlook about everything — including the way we see ourselves, and our body image.
- Yoga helps fight obesity from all three tiers. Yoga works on all aspects of the disease of obesity. The approach is physical, emotional, and spiritual. Yoga poses like Yogasanas (poses) like Paschimotannasana, Saral Hasta Bhujangasana, Sarwangasana, Halasana, Dhanurasana, Veerasana, Trikonasana, Ardha Matsyendrasana, etc. all help to reduce the desire to overconsume unhealthy foods, while also changing our sleep cycles, our addictions to things like caffeine and alcohol, and even how our bodies process the food we eat.
- Cleansing processes offered by yogic science help purify the body. Traditions like agnisar kriya, uddiyan bhanda, and others also help to reset the body and change our food cravings.
- Meditation helps us to change bad mental and physical habits. It can be almost impossible to change our long-practiced habits, even if we desire to be healthy and love ourselves more. The subconscious programming that keeps us locked in certain modes of behavior, including eating too much, exercising too little, or even just negative self-talk can keep our goals of a healthy weight and body image at bay. Meditation helps to bring those subconscious thought patterns to the surface so that they can be healed and we can break free from thoughts and actions which no longer serve us.
Yoga can also help men who suffer from obesity and a distorted body image. Though men less frequently suffer from body dysmorphia, larger numbers of men face obesity as the disease has become epidemic. In one study, it was found that men who practice yoga found it much easier to control their weight – even without any other additional physical activity.
As advertising continually projects images of both men and women that are unrealistic, with every magazine cover photo-shopped, while our warped standards of beauty have caused even super-models to question whether they are beautiful enough, or handsome enough, we need a tool that will help us heal not just our bodies, but our minds.
Having a beautiful body means taking care of our physical self, but also loving ourselves as we are. Our minds, hearts and souls have to come into the picture as well. Many traditional methods of weight loss don’t deal with the core issues of a toxic body and a toxic mind, or the emotional components which are also driving an entire generation to overeat, and hate their bodies.
Ironically, the more love we can give ourselves – often developed through the practices of yoga and meditation – the more we start to appreciate even our ‘flaws’ and embrace the beauty that is inherent in us all. Using yoga and meditation we can uncover the glorious version of ourselves that has been with us all along.
“If you permit your thoughts to dwell on evil you yourself will become ugly. Look only for the good in everything so you absorb the quality of beauty.” — Paramahansa Yogananda