If you’re striving for the perfect body, it’s time to re-frame the conversation, with yourself and the world.
Yoga is one of our favourite workouts, not only because it strengthens the body, focuses the brain, calms the nervous system and nurtures the mind-body connection, but because it puts the female anatomy in perspective. Every time we roll out the mat at our local studio, we are presented with a smorgasbord of body types. There’s the girl who’s curvy on top with twig-like legs, the small-busted beauty with ample hips and the lean, lithe lady with a soft, feminine stomach. What we notice is that one size does not fit all. The media stereotypes of women’s bodies do not fit all, be they “skinny”, “curvy”, “athletic” or otherwise. Recently, the body image conversation has been shifted from voluptuous vs. thin to strong vs. skinny, yet despite the pseudo-positive intentions, these labels only further tout extreme ends of the spectrum, fostering alternative models of “perfection” and not accounting for the billion variations in between. To try and measure up—literally and figuratively—to these body ideals does not do our bodies, or our self-esteem, justice. The so-called positive body movement is as much to blame as the “how to look like a lingerie model” movement. Not all women have curves. And that’s cool.
When we gaze at our fellow yoginis bodies—or our mothers, sisters and friends for that matter—we don’t judge. We see the unique beauty in each of our downward-facing dog compatriots, from the girl with the gorgeous long hair and delicate tattoos to the woman with the dazzling smile and upbeat energy, and the one who is always enviably coordinated, from her sports bra to her yoga mat, right down to her pedicure. We notice their attractive attributes, not their self-perceived flaws. Besides, most of the time we’re so engaged in trying not to topple over in double-bound-eagle-pose that we’re barely aware of much else around us. If you struggle with your own perception of your body, try this: next time you naturally notice something beautiful in another woman, mirror it with a positive thought about yourself. If another woman compliments you—embrace it, don’t deflect it. Change the conversation about your body with yourself, and perhaps you will start to shift things on a bigger scale, so that we’re all encouraged to look at our bodies from a kinder, more accepting (and realistic) viewpoint.
Perfection, after all, is a construct. Any decent personal trainer worth their (pink, Himalayan) salt will tell you that you cannot target or spot reduce certain areas of your body. You cannot crunch your way to a six-pack or squat-induce a smaller bum. An overall approach to fitness that combines cardio, strength and stretch is the best way to a healthy physique, in all areas. There’s a bigger picture at play here when it comes to feeling good in our bodies and it involves self-care, not self-flagellation. Take good care of your skin, hair, nails, hormones, and digestion. Be discerning about the air you breathe, the water your drink, the food you eat, the work and activities you devote your time to, and the people you spend your time with. Be active, make healthy decisions, and live life with an open heart and mind. These are the things that make up a beautiful body, not washboard stomachs or thigh gaps. Thigh gaps are an Internet meme! “Strong is the new Skinny” is a phrase that was made-up to sell magazines!
Any one who has ever lost a little weight or re-sculpted their figure through exercise will tell you that there is always something they are still not satisfied with—a little fleshy bit here, a bump there, a nagging patch of cellulite. Women are meant to possess these things; it’s in our DNA. Airbrushed “perfection” is not real life. Our advice: Aim to be your best self, not your perfect self, because you will always be let down if you do the latter. Focus on how you feel, and in time perhaps you can soften up on the whole perfect body thing if it plagues you. It’s energy better directed towards living, loving, cooking, laughing, running, pampering and creating.
A wise person once told us that women’s body’s wax and wane with the moon, and it’s true. We’re not rigid, we’re not constant–we’re flowing, moving, growing, experiencing. It explains why one day we feel like hot stuff, and the next we can’t even face ourselves in the mirror and why, at that time of the month, we sometimes feel like we’ve doubled in size. Share these common experiences with the women around you, and re-frame the conversation so that we can ditch perfectionism and embrace diversity. We don’t expect everyone to think or speak like each other, so why do we often expect to look like one ideal? The perfect body: It doesn’t exist.