Posts Categorized: guest post

Guest Post: Anna Guest-Jelley on Yoga and Body Image

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

 

anna guest-jelley

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.

I wish.

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.

Other Differences

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.

Grab Anna’s free Quick Start Guide to get your yoga on today! And sign-up for her newsletter to keep up to date with all things curvy and yoga.

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Guest Post: My Love-Hate Relationship with Feeling Pretty

Feeling happy is probably my number two goal in life. (Number one, you’ll recall, is empowering women!) I’ve struggled with anxiety for over a decade, and as such I find it fairly difficult to feel happy. But I strive for it, mull it, try to find ways to grab little bits of happiness whenever and wherever I can. And I do my best to remind all of you lovely readers that looking great is only important insofar as it makes you feel great. That serenity, confidence, and happiness are the real endgame here.

So when Britt Reints contacted me about her new book, An Amateur’s Guide to the Pursuit of Happiness, I had to bite. I’ve read scientific studies and therapist-penned tomes about happiness, but I feel like the concept is so personal and ephemeral that clinical expertise has somewhat limited utility. Britt’s voice is honest, friendly, kind, and welcoming as she unfurls her own story and encourages you to start drafting your own. Today, she’s generously offered to share her own style and body image journey with us.

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moving on

Fashion and beauty had always been important to me. As a kid, I sketched pictures of dresses and dreamed of being a fashion designer. I convinced my mother to let me wear makeup in sixth grade by explaining that I wasn’t too young to feel attractive. My personal style was a significant part of my personal identity as an adult, too. It thrilled me when my mother referred to me as a fashionista or my friends called me for shopping advice. Once upon a time, I even had a shopping blog.

And then I got rid of all my shoes and all but my most functional clothes. At the time, I saw my shoe-shedding as proof of personal growth. I no longer needed a pair of red heels to make me feel bold, strong, or beautiful. I was better than that.

The decision to let go of my wardrobe was also a practical one: my family and I were moving into a 24-foot travel trailer and driving around the country for a year. I didn’t have room to be stylish, and I was certain our adventure was a much more enlightened pursuit.

Within a couple of weeks of moving into the RV, I stopped wearing makeup. What was the point when the only people who would see me were my husband, my kids and a bunch of strangers in a campground? A few months later, I decided to chop off my long, curly hair; I was going to save so much time and money. I told everyone it was “just hair” and I had better things to invest myself in.

And then we stopped traveling and eased back into normal life.

I went shopping with my beautiful friend Courtney and was struck by how lost I felt standing next to her in the mall. It wasn’t so much that I felt unattractive as I felt muddled and unsure of myself. I cringed every time we passed a mirror. I was featureless and shapeless with no makeup or accessories. I missed my beautiful hair.

I tried not to think about it.

I told myself that vanity was a sign of screwed-up priorities.

The truth was more complicated. I missed using fashion as a form of self-expression. I missed the beauty I would create and then get to enjoy in the mirror. I missed feeling beautiful.

It’s not that I spent my days feeling ugly or unattractive. Mostly, I just didn’t think about how I looked. But when I did, I was overwhelmed with conflicting emotions about how I should feel and how I did feel. I wasn’t certain that I wanted to throw myself back into creating a beautiful exterior, but I also felt like I’d lost something in my obsession with practicality, utility, and sparseness.

I decided to spend some time being honest with myself. What did I want? What was I really feeling and thinking – and what was I telling myself I should be feeling?

I had to admit that I wanted to play dress up once in a while. I wanted to feel beautiful without makeup, but I also wanted to remember how to use makeup to enhance my natural features.

I wasn’t entirely sure where to start. It had been so long and I had gotten so far away from my comfort zone, I felt like a complete style newbie. I turned to the Internet for advice and paid for a professional color analysis. I began restocking my closet with items that were in my palette and was delighted when my husband and kids started to notice.

“That looks good on you; that must be in your palette!” my husband says.

Now, I buy something new for myself about once a month, but it’s almost always from a thrift store – and in my personal color palette. My shoe collection is growing, but manageable. I do wear makeup for most occasions, but I’m also not afraid to run to the store or have coffee with a friend completely product free.

Living without a focus on external beauty helped me to break the connection between image and self worth. My weight doesn’t impact my mood and the clarity of my skin is not a measure of my value as a person. I am grateful for this separation of soul and surface.

But I’m also grateful for my beautiful curls and my sparkling blue eyes. I’m grateful for purples, blues, and pinks that make my skin radiant, and I’m thrilled for what the right shoe can do for my butt.

After spending some time at both extremes, I feel like I’ve finally settled at a comfortable middle place where I can embrace both my inner and outer beauty. And I’m no longer afraid to feel pretty.

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Britt Reints is the author of An Amateur’s Guide to the Pursuit of HappinessSign up for free weekly happiness challenges on her blog, or connect with her on Facebook.

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Reader Request: Different Bras for Different Needs

Reader Emma e-mailed me this question:

I invested a significant chunk of money on several bras, and suddenly realized that my shirts look kind of different depending on what bra I am wearing. (Maybe this is obvious; it was quite a revelation to me!) To get to my question: do you have advice on what style of bra to wear with different types of shirts/sweaters/dresses? I’m thinking of the differences between a molded cup that really separates and smooths, versus non-molded cups that are supportive but don’t have a shape on their own and therefore have a slightly more ‘natural’ look, versus a no-underwire style that creates less separation. Of course there are many styles of bra that women could be working with, I just list these examples to try and make my question more understandable.

Bras are complex beasties and I would never claim to be an expert, so I coerced an actual expert into helping me out. Claire Dumican is the founder of Butterfly Collection, an online boutique specializing in DD-K cup bras for women in Canada and the US. Her approach to bra fitting is to empower busty women with knowledge about bras and breasts so that they can feel more comfortable and confident. Claire took a peek at Emma’s request and said, “My approach to this kind of thing is helping women work out what’s important to them and then how to translate that into feature of a bra. So for example, I can write a piece for you that explains why bras look different under the same garment and how that can work to your advantage and how to match your wardrobe to your bras based on your lifestyle and preferences. This is a subtle difference but one that I think is important.”

And I couldn’t agree more.

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September is a key fashion month for magazines and you’ll see lots of articles about must-have shoes, blazers, scarves and even bras. More so than any other region, North America has a very prescribed view of which bra is “appropriate” to wear under certain garments. I’d like you to set aside the idea that certain bras work with certain clothes and consider whether your bra and wardrobe are working for your life.

Why Different Bras Look Different Under the Same Top

First of all though here’s a quick guide to how the design of a bra changes your look under clothes. It’s easy to say that a t-shirt bra works well under a t-shirt (the clue is in the name) but whether a t-shirt bra works well for every woman is seldom discussed. To help you figure out which bra you should wear with a particular outfit here’s a quick guide to bra features and how they change your shape under clothes:

Why bras look different under the same top

From left to right: Profile Perfect is a seamless bra, Melody is a horizontal seamed bra and Lucy is a diagonal seamed bra

Seamless bras with give you a smooth look, however, they can spread out your bust so they’re great under tops with no front fastening but can be problematic under button-front shirts. If you have a narrow torso and want a smooth bra, look for designs that have a side sling inside – this is a piece of fabric that will push your boobs forward rather than out to the sides. If you have large breasts then smooth cup bras tend to be quite tall and that’s because they need the surface area to stop bounce. If you want less coverage you may need to switch to a plunge style or seamed bra.

Bras with horizontal seams (the seam starts in the middle outside edge of the bra) are good for women with wide breasts and for women who want less projection under their clothing. Look for styles that have flat fabrics (like the flat lace on Melody above) as this will give you a smoother look but with more lift and stability than a seamless bra.

Bras with diagonal seams (the seam starts where the strap meets the cup) are ideal for narrowing your bust under clothing which can lessen any pulling at the front of your clothes. This will give you more forward projection and make your top look less wide.

Seamed bras usually have a vertical seam that comes up from the bottom of the cup. This improves lift and makes your torso look longer so if you’re short waisted a bra with a vertical seam can lengthen your look.

Now that you’ve got an idea of how the design of a bra can change your look under clothes it’s time to work out which bras work best with your life.

Physically Demanding Days

If you work in a job that requires a lots of upper body movement like landscape gardening or emergency service, and especially if you’re a caretaker of children, your bra needs to give you a lot of support.

bra1

Seamed bras like Envy by Panache Superbra keep breasts in place during busy days.

Bra features to look for: Support comes from bra seams (a bra with seams will reduce bounce), medium to deep gores (the gore is the center bit between the cups) and full or teardrop shaped cups. For extremely physical jobs like nursing or logging I recommend wearing a sports bra to give you maximum support.

bra2

If you want a smooth cup then look for bras with full cups like this Basic Beauty by Wacoal

Bra features to avoid: Short gores (like plunge styles) work well with v-neck tops, however, they don’t give adequate support for busy days. If you want a smooth cup then look for full cup styles that will give you support.

Office Workers and Sedentary Days

If your day consists of a lot of desk work then you don’t necessarily need your bra to be high impact resistant, however, you need it to be secure and comfortable and versatile enough to work with lots of different necklines.

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A bandless bra like Lucy by Cleo has a medium height gore that works well with lots of necklines

Bra features to look for: Balconette style cups or styles with a medium height gore. Look for bandless bras (styles that don’t have an extra strip of fabric below the wires) because they will be more comfortable when you have to sit for long periods.

Bra features to avoid: You can wear most styles for sedentary days but you might find that bras with deep bands tend to fold over or curl up as you sit.

Matching your bra to your life will ensure you have control over your breasts which boosts your confidence no matter what you wear over the top. If you have trouble finding bust-friendly clothing then check out my review of bust-friendly designers.

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