It seems to me that each generation is becoming increasingly obsessed with body image. We read that primary school aged children are getting eating disorders, teenagers are starving themselves to look like the latest media ‘ideal’ of feminine beauty, while girls in their 20’s are accessing plastic surgery.
It is a focus on the external rather than internal life, a belief that if only we had smaller hips or bigger breasts then we would be happy. All this does, is promote a fixation on the body, which is merely the physical vessel that holds the truth of ourselves. The emphasis on a perceived perfection of shape and looks also causes many, especially young insecure girls, to disconnect from their bodies and ‘give-up’ on themselves.
The Symposium on Yoga Therapy and Research is a body that meets annually to present academic research on the therapeutic benefits of yoga. The 2007 Symposium concentrated on the impact of yoga on various groups of adolescents. One study examined the benefits of yoga for adolescents with eating disorders. Typically suffering from a lack of self-esteem, nearly 75% reported an increase in well-being. (M.J Fury, MA, RYT, and L.C. Kaley-Isley, PhD, RYT) Another found that Girls ages 14 to 17 who had suffered traumatic abuse and attended a yoga class twice a week showed “significant decreases in depression, anxiety, dissociation, and intrusive/avoidant symptoms.” It was further reported that “the girls overwhelmingly noted that they felt happier, more relaxed, less stressed, and more at ease in their bodies on the days they practiced yoga than on the days they did not.” (A. Bortz, PsyD, RYT and K. Cradock, LCSW, RYT)
Yoga therapist Mira Benzin who reported on the Symposium concludes “It seems simple. Children are suffering from a lack of connection to their own bodies, their environment and the food they eat. Yoga facilitates connection. It’s easy, low cost, accessible and anyone can do it. And now it’s being proven effective.”
As a yoga therapist I understand fully that yoga assists us to connect to our bodies and the breath. But more than that it takes us past the physical and into the power within. And from that place of strength – body image can be seen to be just that …image not substance.