Mindfulness is the practice of developing greater awareness. This awareness can relate to our bodies and minds and how they work together or against each other. We’ve all felt disconnected from our bodies at times and felt resentment that we don’t look like we want to look or move like we wish to move. How can mindfulness help us in this area?
Watch what you say: Our words can either heal or hurt us. Notice how what you say reflects how you feel about your body. As a yoga teacher, I’m aware of how I use language to encourage students and am aware of language that could be construed as hurtful. Things like, “We’ve got to get to these crunches! Work your core! Bikini season is coming!” can reinforce negative stereotypes about how one should look in the summer. Mindfulness is more than the practice of meditation; it’s also the practice of bringing awareness to our words and ensuring that what we say is intentional and clear.
Get to the root of it: Ever inhale a bag of potato chips while angry? Or stuff down a cupcake over heartbreak? These actions are symptoms of the problem and until we acknowledge what’s underneath, we’ll always stay at the surface, being reactive rather than proactive. Use mindfulness techniques like deep breathing, meditation and yoga as well as talking to a therapist or spiritual teacher to help you uncover the root of your negative body image thoughts. Was it that time in grade school when your mom laughed at your outfit? Or the date that told you that you had a funny walk? These things can stay with us for years and our actions can reflect a deep sense of pain and hurt. Until we acknowledge this and release it, we may always be stuck in a negative body image cycle.
Notice the energy behind your actions: As a yoga teacher, I watch how people approach their practice and can make some assumptions about their feelings towards their body. When we love and respect our body, we approach our practice with a mindfulness that is expressed through steady breathing, focused gaze and intentional movement. When we approach yoga class as a punishment for that big dinner we ate, or merely as a way to whip the body into shape, our practice will be disjointed and chaotic. Before any exercise, yoga or otherwise, take a few deep breaths and note the intentions and energy behind your actions. If you catch yourself fueled by negative imagery, take a step back and look for something more mindful.
Resist the trickery: I recently saw an article that showed untouched and re-touched photos of celebrities. It was amazing to see how much is done to alter the image of these public figures. The shape of their bodies, their facial features, their weight; it’s all altered to present an image that is “perceived” to be most attractive. We can use these images to inspire us, depress us or we can simply see them for what they are: trickery. Even the celebrities in these pictures would admit their photos don’t look like them (ask Jennifer Lawrence). Be mindful of your reaction to these pictures. If you find yourself using them to feel sorry for yourself that you don’t look a certain way, remember, neither do they.
Practice Loving Kindness meditation: One of the styles of meditation that can be helpful in developing a more loving relationship with your body is called Loving Kindness meditation. It is focused on developing the quality of “loving self-acceptance.” Practice meditation with a focus on loving your body as it is. Meditate on the features you love about yourself and use that positive energy to develop a more loving attitude towards yourself.
By contributing editor Karen Fabian, founder of bare bones yoga
We wish you twenty minutes of mindfulness every day!