Thoughts on Body Image

Today in Instagram-Land I was tagged by a truly wonderful friend to post three things I'm grateful for regarding my body. Of course, like most girls of our time I've questioned whether I fit society's beauty standards, compared myself to my peers and sisters, or wished something about my body was different. Yoga quieted these tendencies not because of how it has made me look, but because of the awareness that comes with having such a demanding practice as part of daily life.

photo  sean scheidt

It's hard to hate on my body after it's risen before the sun, kept me alert enough to steer a thousand-pound piece of metal across state lines for a fun-filled morning of bending myself in half, tucking my legs behind my head, and jumping through my arms repetitively. I guess the practice has provided an experience to focus on all the amazing things my body can do, which doesn't leave as much space to focus on what I believe it lacks. Or as Don Draper would phrase it, I "changed the conversation..."

The body image subject has for sure become synonymous with modern yoga, and yogis should feel grateful we have such a physical way to explore our material existence. But what about those who don't have the practice? What do we all share that can give us a filter to see with that encourages self-acceptance? I believe a great common denominator for this subject is family lines. 

I grew up in a small, family-centered town where high school dances are like Oscar events. The photo-op of the kids in their sparkly dresses and tuxes before they head off for the evening is a ritual that the parents here take very seriously, and it usually becomes a big family (if not half the town) production. Being the oldest of 4 girls, I've attended many of these, giving me an opportunity to see many families together at once. It's awesome to see how each kid is really a perfect hybrid of both parents and their appearance is a walking, nature-made blueprint of mom and dad. Being able to identify which high-schooler belonged to which parent based on physicality made me realize our bodies are not a size or shape, they are a family legacy we carry around with us. 

Kristen, Emily, Mikaila, and Natalie at the first of two picture-taking gatherings.

Kristen, Emily, Mikaila, and Natalie at the first of two picture-taking gatherings.

There is nothing more awesome than looking through old family photos of my great, great grandparent's in Latvia and seeing similarities between their physicality and my own, even though we are separated by almost 100 years. Even though I'll never have the chance to look at my grandmother's face again, mine is round just like hers so as much as it makes me feel like the Michelin Tire man, I don't care because that reminder of such an inspiring and no longer tangible part of my life is more important than what's attractive. Seeing my body as an inherited form I inhabit to do my work is an instant way to drop judgement and infuse my life with purpose.