‘A Short Guide on How to Love Yourself and Your Body’
”It is time to change the perception we have towards our own bodies and give it the self-love that is deserves.”
Unfortunately, we seem to be living in times where there seems to be a lot of negativity and negative perceptions towards our bodies. Where our bodies our one of the greatest gifts in life, in which ever shape or form it may come. It is sad that so much emphasis is placed on how the body must look and the individual that spends all her time trying to reach these unrealistic ideals will never feel complete from the inside. Whatever the reason is for the unhealthy body images that we have, whether it is social media or advertising that promote unrealistic and photo shopped images that make us feel insignificant, it is time to change the perception we have towards our own bodies and give it the self-love that is deserves.
”We should celebrate each other’s’ beauty and realise that another person’s beauty never takes away from your own.”
The yogic way of life always starts by looking within. Why is it that we have negative feelings towards our bodies? Can we break this cycle? To start, we must stop comparing ourselves to others as we never know what goes on in people’s lives, what their imperfections are and how they feel on the inside. And quite frankly, it should not matter. We should celebrate each other’s’ beauty and realise that another person’s beauty never takes away from your own. Learn to focus on the beautiful qualities and features that you have and to be grateful for it. When you start to love and appreciate yourself, you glow in a different way. By changing your mind, your body and energy changes with it. That is how powerful the mind is. When the mind is at peace, the body will be at peace too.
”Tell your body on a daily basis how grateful you are for it.”
First and foremost, love your body and tell it on a daily basis how grateful you are for it. Even if you don’t believe it, just by saying it every day a shift will take place. Try not to focus too much on others and focus on your own experiences. Minimise social media and unfollow any accounts that make you feel bad about yourself. Instead you can start by following accounts that promote healthy body images and self-love. The same can be applied to any situation in your life. If your job does not make you feel good, change it. If people in your life are unsupportive of who you are, it is okay to stop hanging out with them. It is your life and you are here to feel good about yourself. As Guru Mooji says ‘Dying to your own attachments is a beautiful death. Because this death releases you into real life. You have to die as a seed to live as a tree.’ Once you start living this way everything else that is aligned with where you should be going, will follow. Tremendous happiness can come from this, even though it might be difficult making drastic changes in the beginning. Just remember that it is all for a higher purpose.
As a yogi, I have learned to live my life in such a way that I accept everything that comes my way and to let go of the things that do not serve me anymore. Of course, coming to such a state does not happen overnight, but even by making small changes on a daily basis you will slowly see a shift taking place. What are exercises that promote a healthy body image and a healthy state of being? There are many ways to achieving a blissful state, but I will discuss the ones that I have personally incorporated into my daily routines.
1 Rumi, Persian Poët
The Body and its’ Fuel
To start, yogi’s believe that the body has to be fuelled in a certain way if one wants it to affect the mind in a positive way. In the yogic way of life, the food that enters the body is ’satvic food’, which is only food that will not affect the mind. For example, no caffeine or alcohol is consumed as it can alter the state of mind in a negative way or an individual can become dependent on its consumption. It is also believed that when the body only consumes pure unprocessed foods, it will tell you what it needs. Unfortunately, in our current society, there are many processed foods and sugars so that people have slowly become greatly dependent on them. As the mind is confused as to what the body needs, our diet becomes distorted, our body becomes unhealthy and the mind is negatively affected. Your body and mind will thank you if you can become more aware of what foods to eat and how your body and mind reacts to them. Just by spending time in this way with your body, you will become more present and move differently.
I also like to do grounding exercises, which has health benefits but also can make you feel more confident in your own body. The body responds the moment it is in touch with the earth. It is given a strong experiential reminder that it is just a part of this earth, for example by walking barefoot or sitting on the ground so that the body has maximum contact with the earth. Today the many artificial ways in which we distance ourselves from the earth (for example by wearing heels) involve an alienation of the part from the whole and suffocates the fundamental life process. This alienation manifests in large-scale autoimmune disorders and chronic allergic conditions. One can prevent this by walking barefoot on a daily basis for a few minutes or by sitting on the floor, just to make a connection with the earth. This exercise not only helps the health of the physical body, but is also prevents anxiety or negative thoughts.
Exercise as a form of higher consciousness
Another form of loving the body is by using exercise as a mechanism to release certain tension that might have built up and have been stored in the body as a result. In current society there are a lot of people who work-out for the sole benefit of looking good. Looking good in yoga is not the point of exercising. One exercises to release tension in the body and to let go of being in your head, in order to reach a higher state of consciousness. With yoga, one learns to feel the body. When awareness is brought to certain bodily areas you can sense where there is tension in the body. By doing certain stretches, the tension is released and as a result the body opens up and feels free again. In doing so, certain energy levels are balanced out and the mental state is affected in a positive way. When done correctly, yogic exercises can even help to release past trauma’s that have been stored in certain areas of the body.
Breathing and its effect on the body
Breathing the right way is also an essential part of self-love and a great tool to prevent anxiety or stress. The first thing to do when feeling worried, anxious or negative is to breath. By taking deep breaths one can automatically calm down. Breathing correctly also has many health benefits, mentally as well as physically. Unfortunately, a lot of people are always rushing which leads to them breathing quickly throughout the day. This effects a person’s health and wellbeing, but can be prevented by paying attention on a daily basis to the pace of one’s breath and bringing it to a calm and normal level of breathing. After doing this a few times, the pace of breathing will automatically become more adjusted, which will have great effects for mental en physical well-being.
Practice being present and being grateful
Lastly, I would like to talk about mental health and meditation as perhaps the most important part of the yogic way of life. One can exercise all they want and eat healthy, but if the mind is unhappy it will be reflected in the body, and an unhappy life and body will be the result of that. The most important thing to pay attention to is therefore the mind. Many people struggle with the ego, which has gotten worse since people have become more individualised and have forgotten about the unity that exists between all human beings. Yogi’s believe that everyone is interconnected with each other and with the universe. Sadly it seems now that we are more disconnected to each other than ever, which might be the reason that a lot of people are wealthier than ever but also more unsatisfied as ever. When people focus on the ego, they will never feel fulfilled. We all have heard the phrases ‘when I get a certain job, then I will be happy’ or ‘when I have a boyfriend, then I will be happy’ and so on. This is a toxic way to think and will never satisfy the individual that is thinking in this way. Practicing being in the now, being present and feeling grateful, are powerful tools towards the path of letting go of the ego. By focusing on what we have instead of what we don’t have we learn to appreciate our bodies and the lives that we have in the now.
Affirmations can also be useful in creating a healthy body image. If negative thoughts come in about yourself or your body, repeat the opposite to yourself, even if you don’t believe it as many times as you need too and after a certain period of time these negative thoughts will start to disappear. For example, if you start to think you look fat, you can repeat to yourself that you are beautiful, your body is amazing and that you are grateful for the body that you have been given because it brings you life. Comparison is the root of evil in this regard, focus on yourself, not the lives of others, as we can’t know how they experience life or what goes on inside their minds. You are here with your own experiences and senses, and that is all that matters. By changing your thoughts in a positive way, your body will change simultaneously. That is how powerful the mind can be.
In regards to meditation, a big misconception that many people have is that they must turn off the thoughts in order to meditate. If you forbid yourself to think, you will start to think even more. The trick is too not dwell on thoughts. Notice thoughts coming in and let them pass by, but do not get stuck in the thought process. When one gets stuck in a thought process, that is when presence is lost. Presence means being fully here in the now, which starts by focusing on the senses and everything that is happening around you and in front of you, breathing calmly and calming the thoughts. In doing so, everything automatically becomes calm as anxiety and stress start in the mind, not outside of the mind. When one activates the senses, the mind becomes quiet.
”Only by letting the thoughts go and by appreciating what is in front of you, accepting the way the body is, accepting the way other bodies are and smiling at all beauty and unity that is offered in this world, one will find not only a positive and healthy body image, but also a positive, peaceful and purely joyful life.”
The world is like a painting, where all the individual colours are beautiful in their own way, but when one puts the colours together, and sees the interconnectedness, it becomes a masterpiece. The trick to get out of negative thoughts is to treat the body with love, to ground it, to exercise, and basically by not worrying too much. You have been given this amazing body, the biggest gift the universe can ever give you, the gift of life. Focus on the senses, on the beauty that surrounds you, and experience life with joy and pure gratitude. Only by letting the thoughts go and by appreciating what is in front of you, accepting the way the body is, accepting the way other bodies are and smiling at all beauty and unity that is offered in this world, one will find not only a positive and healthy body image, but also a positive, peaceful and purely joyful life. You have the power to create the life you desire and you deserve to be happy, do not ever forget that. Love yourself and all the rest will follow.
‘’My love, stay here.
Going in search of Self (as a goal) is illusion;
You are already the One Self
You will purchase the map,
Only to find you are already Here’’
This article was written by Zoë van de Zanden. Master of Science and Arts and Registered Certified Yoga Teacher at YogawithZoe. ‘Through mud it rises, through water it emerges, through sunlight is blossoms’. If you would like to get in touch Zoe, feel free to contact her at email@example.com or find her on Instagram at yogawithzoe
For further readings please see footnote
2 Mooji 3 Books: 1. Breath, The new Science of a Lost Art by James Nestor (2020) *explains the science of breathing 2. Earthing, The Most Important Health Discovery Ever by Clinton Ober (2014) *explains grounding 3. Inner engineering: A Yogi’s guide to Joy by Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev (2016) *about the path to a happy life 4. Satvic Movement, The Food Book by Suban Jain *provides a list of satvic foods and their benefits 5. The book of Joy by the Dalai Lama, Desmond Tutu and Douglas Abrams (2016) *about living a peaceful life 6. The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle (2001) *about how to be in the now Pages: 1. Https://deepakchopra.cm a spiritual Master who seeks to create a peaceful, sustainable, healthy and joyful world 2. Https://mooji.org for Mooji’s page, a spiritual Master who dedicates his life for this who desire to awaken into their natural self