When I first started yoga my main motive for trying it was for stress-relief and because it seemed like an easy way to implement some exercise into my life. I was in the process of getting my life back on track after quitting a stressful job, going through a breakup and moving back home. So money was scarce and so was my confidence. For this reason, my yoga practice began purely as a home practice for the first two years.
With the little strip of carpet between my bedroom wall and the end of my bed, I began my home yoga practice guided by YouTube videos and the reflection of myself in the floor-to-ceiling mirror of my closet. At first, I watched myself in the mirror as I moved through the poses because I wanted to make sure I was ‘doing it right.’ I wanted to perfect my poses so they could look as graceful as my yoga instructor on YouTube.
However, as time went by, I learned that yoga is not about judging yourself or pressuring yourself to ‘be better’ at the poses – it’s really quite the opposite. I found that by watching myself move through the poses I slowly began to feel gratitude for the strength of my body as my practice deepened. Within time, I began to use the mirror as a way to lovingly confront my need to accept my body exactly as it was.
I found it was when I got past the discomfort of watching and feeling my body move through challenging poses that my body confidence really took off.
“The more time you spend in your discomfort zone, the more your comfort zone will expand” – Robin Sharma
Finding comfort in the discomfort leads to change and personal growth
By finding confidence even when I don’t look my best, I find a limitless confidence that it is not dependent on the balance of my pose or the clothes I’m wearing or the number on the scales – it relies on me and what I tell myself about my body.
I find the best place to take this lesson, outside of the yoga studio, is on the beach. For people who have struggled with body image, this can be the scariest place to embrace and accept your body, particularly when you’re not at your ideal weight. It’s also the best place to test your progress and improve your body confidence.
Body confidence doesn’t come from trying to achieve the ‘perfect’ body. It comes from embracing the one you’ve already got! – Unknown
This starts by practicing positive self-talk and confidently holding your body once you’ve stripped down to your swimwear on the beach. It feels unnatural at first, but once you get past the discomfort the next time is easier and so is the next. This also makes the difference between hurrying from your towel to the ocean wondering if everyone is looking and judging you, to confidently walking to the ocean whilst enjoying the sun on your back and the anticipation of the calm, cool ocean water.
Notice the triggers that make you feel low on body confidence
Maybe it’s not at the beach or during exercise. Once you know the triggers, have your eyes and ears open for the negative self-talk and the feeling of discomfort in your body.
Allow yourself to sit with the feeling of discomfort just as you would in that pigeon pose your yoga teacher gets you to hold for longer than you’d like to. After a while, you will find ease in it and next time you do it, it will be a little bit easier because your muscles have stretched more and you’re body is getting used to this new feeling. The same thing happens with your mind- the first time you look at your body with gratitude and acceptance feels challenging, but when you get past that it gets easier and easier until confidence feels more natural than the self-loathing or self-doubt.
It is when you embrace the discomfort in life that true growth and acceptance begins. When you let go of the expectations, you make space for growing in self-acceptance and self-love.