Self-Esteem and Your Yoga Practice

The Blonde Goddess

Have you googled ‘yoga poses’ recently? Click images. Almost every photo that comes up is of a beautiful, fit, skinny (white) woman doing poses - beginner to advanced. They’re hardly wearing any clothing, (but lets be honest, I don’t think I would either if I looked like that doing a yoga pose) their hair and makeup are flawless. What is this? Is this what I’m expected to look like when I work out? Yeah. That’s realistic. 

I recently wrote a humorous blog about my experience with trying yoga again after a hiatus of multiple years. I'd mistakenly taken an advanced class, and found that I was surrounded by beautiful and fit yogis that were intimating. After the article went live, a friend of mine reached out to tell me he’d enjoyed the post, but that I shouldn’t have felt so insecure around all the yoga goddesses (my terminology for the beautiful and fit yogis.) When I got his text I found myself scoffing a little at it. The theme of my post was about my embarrassment and awkwardness due to being incredibly out of my beginner element in this advanced class, and yeah I mentioned that I felt insecure about the clothes I had chosen to wear, but I wasn’t actually insecure. 

I re-read my post, and started thinking hard about what I had actually felt that day in the class, and how I had compared myself to every other woman in there. I started to realize that maybe there was something more deep-rooted to the “joking” insecurities that I had felt and written about. 

My weight for the past 7 years has plateaued somewhere almost exactly between 145-155. I could dream about anything under 145 but I doubt it would ever happen without some serious work that I’m not going to put in. Anything over 155 and I know I need to relax on the desserts, pick up some veggies and go for a couple runs. 

I’ve never been stick skinny, but I’ve also never been overweight (except for that time I studied abroad in Europe, damn you pain au chocolats.) I’ve always viewed myself as a pretty self-secure woman. I acknowledge that there’s always room for “improvement,” but I’ve never been consumed with maintaining a certain look. 

Except– I’m realizing that I clearly always have been… because what does that even mean, “there’s always room for improvement?” Improvement by whose standards? My own, or the ones that were introduced to me as a little girl and have only then since evolved and firmly lodged themselves into my subconscious? The proof of my insecurity is blatantly everywhere, even in my word choice… and that’s not okay.

As I’m writing this, I’m growing more and more disappointed in myself. Society’s definition of beautiful and the effect of those peer pressures on women (young and old) are at the foreground of America’s biggest cultural problems today. I’m not naïve to the fact that this is a major problem in our society, but I was naïve to the fact that I had one.

In an article found in Yoga International, Yoga and Body Image Coalition founders, Melanie Klein and Gigi Yogini, were interviewed about their most recent work and their thoughts on cultural expectations of body image and self-acceptance. In one of my favorite excerpts, Melanie comments on how the issues stated in their body image coalition ["sexism, racism, classism, heterosexism, able-ism, size-ism, age-ism and consumer culture."] overlap with one another, “We live in a society that commodifies, objectifies, and exalts the able-bodied, thin, young, Eurocentric, heterosexual, and appropriately “feminine” female body, and celebrates the large, muscular, tough, heterosexual, male body.”

Unfortunate parts of today’s society are the heavy expectations and pressures that come with being a woman. Heavy might be an ironic word to use, because a lot of pressures we face involves us not being heavy. America throughout the past decades has always had a projected image of what an ideal woman should look like. 

You might’ve seen edited collages on the internet before, with six or seven different images of women and their body types with various decades labeled to the sides of their photograph. If you don’t know what I’m talking about— Google it. It’s pretty fascinating to know exactly what was desired and expected of women throughout the years. 

Where do these desired body images come from? At the end of every 9 years, does a panel of men get together and decide that while the voluptuous hourglass look was great for the 50’s, they’d now like to move onto thin looks for the 60’s-70’s?

In the end, it's up to each of us to determine what is and is not healthy, not for culture, but for ourselves. Until we've defined ourselves as more than just okay, we'll always be looking to the blonde in the room thinking "Why can't that be me?"


Sky Andersen holds down the role of blog writer at Yoga Accessories. Currently studying Public Relations at Virginia Commonwealth University, she writes for many different publications and is passionate about all things photography, travel and of course- yoga.