Today, I’m honored to connect you with Anna Guest-Jelley, author of Curvy Yoga and bona-fide body image warrior. Spend even five minutes perusing Anna’s site and you’ll see that she is brimming with kindness, patience, wisdom, and generosity. Her philosophy of self-love and her drive to encourage women of all shapes, sizes, and ages to experiment with the transformative world of yoga make her an absolute superstar in my book.
Anna has agreed to tell us how, even after years of practice, yoga still boosts her self-image. Read on for Anna’s story.
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Why Yoga Still Helps With My Body Image
I started practicing yoga almost fifteen years ago, and I’ve been pretty devotedly on the body acceptance path for about seven years. So it might be easy to think I never feel bad about my body anymore.
What Comes Up
Here’s the thing: those old internal tapes about how much better my life would be if I lost weight? Or got taller? Or even just had a belly that wasn’t quite this big?
They’re still there. Even the get taller one, and I’m 100% sure that ship has totally sailed.
Thankfully, though, they have shifted a bit over time. They come up less often. And they usually hang on a bit less tenaciously now, too. Of course, this is primarily because I’m much better able to recognize them now for what they are – old programming – vs. what I used to see them as: truth.
Make that Truth with a capital T.
The other big difference for me now (as opposed to when I started my body acceptance journey) is that I understand how to feel what’s going on inside my body and use my body to make a change.
If you’re guessing this is because of yoga, you’re right.
Although my yoga practice started years before I began to work with accepting – and even loving – my body in earnest, I believe it paved the path for it. And I know for sure that yoga is what ultimately made it possible.
How Yoga Helps
Sometimes when I think about it, I find it funny that yoga is what helped me accept my body. Yoga – these days the domain of the uber-thin and flexible – is not what many people call to mind when they think of bigger-bodied folks like me. But I never could resist a surprise factor.
So it is that I take my curvy bod to the mat, moving my belly skin to come more comfortably into a forward bend, stepping my feet a bit wider to make space for my thighs in a standing pose.
Each time I do this, I reinforce trust with myself: I know what is right for my body and it is OK for me to take steps to meet my own needs, just as they are in this moment. By connecting with my body through yoga, I’ve been able to come into a relationship with myself. And it wasn’t until I got to know myself and my body that I could begin to shift my relationship towards one of acceptance.
In the past, I didn’t give myself that grace. I tried to force myself into poses, diets and clothes that didn’t fit, all in the name of becoming who I thought I “should” be.
But now, what surprises me (delightfully so) is to realize that none of that forcing ever “worked.” Even if I did lose a few pounds here or there, it rarely made me feel better about myself at all, and certainly not for long. There was always yet another struggle: to keep it off, to lose more, to get to the next pose.
Staying with My Body
Yoga teaches us that over time the practice becomes increasingly subtle. What brings us in the door — the poses — becomes less and less important as we become quieter inside, more adept at listening.
And that is why I continue to practice yoga as a tool for body acceptance. It’s the only tool in my toolbox that invites me to go deeper and deeper still into the ever-changing yet ever-constant reality of who I am.
And it helps me to see that I am whole, just as I am.
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Anna Guest-Jelley is the founder of Curvy Yoga – a training and inspiration portal for full-figured yogis and their whole-hearted teachers. As a writer, teacher and lifelong champion of women’s empowerment and body acceptance, Anna encourages women of every size, age and ability to grab life by the curves. And never let go.