Frustrated after years of expensive and useless gym memberships, I purchased an introductory package at a yoga studio near my work. After a few classes, I noticed several immediate benefits. My energy levels went up, I slept much better, I was calmer and more focused in my daily life, and most importantly, I was enjoying myself.
Before starting yoga regularly I had chosen working out at the gym as my fitness solution of choice and I never quite realized just how much I wasn’t enjoying it. I always had to drag myself there, reminding myself that it was good for me, that I should go more regularly. I would workout long and hard at the gym but would often leave feeling tired, discouraged and out of shape.
In retrospect, it was silly to try and force myself into a routine that I was so rarely enjoying. But that was hard to see in the moment. Having fun wasn’t the focus of my fitness routine, getting fit was. Let’s face it, if we’re engaging in an activity that is not obligatory, it’s difficult to force ourselves to do it unless we’re having fun. I am well aware of that now, and that realization has changed my life.
Yoga is the only fitness class that I have ever gone to in which the instructors do not make comments about how the poses will change and ‘improve’ your body and physical appearance. Other fitness classes that I’ve gone to in the past always have moments in which the instructor yells, “Come on ladies! Let’s get our bikini bodies ready for summer!”. This kind of mentality, in my opinion, takes the fun out of getting active. The purpose of physical activity should not be to conform to a certain physical idea. Seriously why has looking fit become more important than being fit?!
What I love about yoga is that its purpose is not fitness or weight loss, it is simply to get your body into a pose and to breathe deeply. To challenge the mind and body and to remain calm throughout the practice, no matter how difficult it is.
Ironically, shaking the belief that I had to get into shape allowed me to finally get into a routine that works for me. I go to yoga at least three times a week now because I’m having fun, because I miss it when I don’t go, because I look forward to it, because I’m getting better at it, because my body is greatly benefiting, because I’m hooked. I’m not hooked on yoga because it is changing my physical appearance, I’m hooked because it makes me feel great. It makes me well overall, and wellness and balance, in my opinion, is more important than fitness.
Think carefully about the absurdity of our body image obsessed society. Corporations supply us with processed, high calorie, high fat, addictive foods which make us gain weight. The media bombards us with images of digitally altered bodies that give us an unrealistic ideal. Other corporations try to capitalize on our diminished self-esteems by offering quick-fix diets and ineffective fitness fads. When the diets and fitness programs don’t give us the results we were promised, we feel like failures and eat our feelings away, starting the cycle over again.
It doesn’t have to be that complicated. Eat when you’re hungry, enjoy your food, nourish your body, and get moving. You will feel better, you will see results, you will eventually stop obsessing and you’ll be able to focus on more important things in life. The only way we can change the corrupt diet industry is if we stop buying into it. The only way to stop buying into it is to change our way of looking at ourselves.
I recommend yoga not only as an exercise solution but as a means of changing your attitude about body image. Yoga teaches us to respect our bodies, to work with them rather than against them, to use our breath to help us. Yoga has allowed me to strive for balance in my life, and has helped me to fully accept my beautiful body for what it is. I am thankful that I am healthy, bendy, twisty and strong. Yoga has given me peace and resolution. It is a hobby, a passion a past time, something just for me. And for that I am very grateful.