Tuesday, March 29, 2011

My hungy yoga body

This is a brief version of the long story of three very important relationships: 1.) My body image 2.) My Yoga Practice 3.) My Nutrition. I started practicing yoga when I was 14-years-old. My mother, who happens to be my favorite yoga instructor, brought myself and a friend to a studio in Davis Square where she worked at the time. No one was in the studio, so we had full reign of the equipment and mirror space. The first thing my mother said was, "Stand up straight with your feet planted into the ground and picture yourself growing from the earth like a tree." I laughed. Then I looked in the mirror as I pretended to be the aforementioned tree, and all laughs quickly came to a halt. Within a split second, the voice inside my head began with it's all too familiar criticism, "My God, Stephanie, look at those thighs. What have you been eating that makes your thighs so huge," and then the reply, "Too much." As we continued the practice, the criticisms grew louder, "Why are your mother and your friend SO much better at this than you? Look at their beautiful arms, their peacefulness, and their grace. You have none of that." And so concluded my first yoga session. I wish I could tell you that it got better immediately after that day, but I would be lying. Nevertheless, I obeyed my mother as she insisted that I keep up with my yoga practice and I believed her when she said that eventually the peace, the gracefulness, and the body love would eventually, as she put it, "follow the flow". Then something interesting happened one day after yoga. My mom concluded the session with a Buddhist prayer on self-love, and as I remained in shavasana, my mind was completely clear for the first time. I don't remember her words; only the feeling of empowerment and, believe it or not, peace & gracefulness. After that session, I sat at my parents kitchen table and realized that I felt good. There was new space in my body and I felt strong. I didn't necessarily care whether my body was graceful or my arms toned like Madonna's. What mattered most was the happiness I truly felt. The other thing I felt was hungry. And in this vital moment of life, instead of reaching for the cookies on the counter, I grabbed an apple from the fruit bowl. And so began my lifelong journey with the connections between yoga, body image, and food.
Yoga in Times Square with Elizabeth and Beth was a true test of our Mindfulness abilities! There's nothing like stretching and meditating in one of the busiest parts of the world!
Again, I wish I could say I never had body-hatred after that day, but again, I would be lying. Body image is not static. It is a constant work in progress and it takes true effort to feel good about yourself. The good news is, if you learn to love yourself, eventually the task is less daunting. I did continue my yoga practice, and I continued to see the connection between my self perception and the food choices I made. On days when I did yoga, my perception of myself would reach a deeper level. I gave more thought to myself as a whole being, a soul inside of a body, and it helped me learn to appreciate the things about myself I once took for granted. The more self-aware I became, the healthier I would eat. The connection between what I was putting into my body, which I was learning to love, suddenly became clear to me when it was once a foreign concept.
Guiltless Yoga on the Beach!
I continued yoga throughout college, and throughout the start of my career, continued through graduate school up until this very day. I even learned that my perceived connection between food and yoga was in fact a topic of research on yoga and mindful eating. The relationship I built between my body, my food, and my yoga deepened with time and experience. At this point, if I am feeling down and out, all I have to do is take out my yoga mat and do 10-15 minutes and immediately, I'll feel better. So why am I sharing this with you? If not anything but to inspire you to examine your own relationship between your body perception, your nutrition, and your favorite mode of movement whether that's dancing, biking, swimming, running, anything. Care to share? What's your experience with food, body image, and movement?


  1. I couldn't agree more! I experienced this same phenomena several years ago when I started practicing yoga. When I got out of it, the connection of knowing what to eat (what my body said to eat) was broken. My eating spiraled out of control. Very interesting topic. Great post!

    (for some reason I can't post with my blog. it's diaryofafabgirl.me or diaryofafabgirl.wordpress.com. The wordpress url redirects. perhaps that's why.)