Body Image and Radical Acceptance

On one of the early days of the Sun Salute Challenge, I quietly posted a video of myself wearing only yoga shorts and a sports bra. It probably didn’t register as anything extraordinary, but it was. 

Hello, my name is Jackie, and I have a body image problem. 

This is nothing new. I’ve struggled with the way I look for as long as I can remember. Yoga has taught me to work on accepting myself and to look for positive ways to open myself up to a deeper level of acceptance. It has also made me brave in ways I would have never dreamed. Filming myself, posting these videos, taking off my shirt, even writing these words are things that terrify me. I’m trusting the yoga.

There are things that I believe - I believe that people should be able to wear whatever they want without judgement or restriction (from themselves or others). I believe that a person’s worth is not tied in any way to their appearance. I believe that it’s possible to create a society based on love and not on fear and hatred. A place where people feel safe to put on whatever clothes make them happy, without fear of nasty comments, of not being taken seriously, or of being raped. A place where no one is expected to look a certain way (whether that means size, hair style, clothing choice, sexual or gender preference, or anything else).

I believe these things strongly; in the very core of my being. But they are hard to apply to myself, and they are not what I experience in the “real” world.

In the “real” world I hear people (sometimes my own family members and sometimes myself) make jokes or snarky comments about someone’s weight, or their attractiveness, or their choice of clothes. These jokes are not directed towards me and yet I take them in, I think of them when I see myself in the mirror, I hear them when I choose what to put on my body. 

I know that I am a healthy weight and that it’s very likely that you’re reading this with a sense of disbelief. Or at the very least you’re thinking, well duh, everyone has body issues of some sort. But I’m not ok with that anymore. I’m not ok bowing to that voice inside my head that says, you better not wear those yoga pants to class because everyone will see your belly roll over the top when you come up for Warrior 1.

I’m also not ok with having potential yoga students tell me that they really want to try yoga, and they plan to come to my class one day, but they have to lose some weight first. 

I’m not ok with students who tell me that they love yoga, they love my classes in particular, but they just feel too self conscious in class with all the “thin” girls.

I’m not ok having to be asked if “big” girls can do yoga.

There is something else that I believe. I believe that changing the world begins with changing yourself. So, if I want to live in a world of radical acceptance, then I have to accept myself completely, now. I have to start there.

Taking off my shirt for a yoga video with a minimal audience is a small and pretty trite gesture, yet I’m making it anyway. I can’t expect other people to be comfortable in my classes if I’m not comfortable with myself. So here we go. Baby steps.