I mean seriously, have you seen me? Not only am I hot, I know I’m hot! That seems a bit more like vanity than high self-esteem…
In all reality, yoga does have amazing benefits on self-esteem. There are actual studies people have done on this, it’s awesome! Like really science people! They probably even have lab coats.
I hate to break it to you, but you aren’t perfect. It’s OK though. Yoga teaches us that. By learning our limitations and even learning about ourselves, we learn to accept our imperfections. Perhaps you’ll never have your hips squared off “perfectly” in Warrior II. Maybe your knees will never touch the ground in cobblers pose. It’s fine, that’s the way your body is built. That’s actually the trick to loving yourself and having high self-esteem. It’s not about being flawless, it’s bout owning those flaws!
It also teaches us that the outward appearance of out bodies dictates nothing. Sometimes larger bodied people can fold into the most advanced poses, sometimes thin bodies can’t. Being skilled at anything has nothing to do with your looks. We learn not to judge ourselves. In fact, we can learn to love ourselves.
We are also taught to not be competitive. On occasion, competition is a good thing, like in the business world, the Olympics, and Monopoly. However, yoga gives us time to stop being competitive, even with ourselves. We strive to be better and see improvement, but we don’t need to compete. You get my drift? Competing with yourself is definitely better than competing with other people, but you can really get down on yourself if you hit a plateau or aren’t seeing improvement like you wanted.
(Note: If you are facing a plateau and are getting down on yourself, check out my post about Discouragement and getting back into yoga!)
This gives us the tool to switch off our competitive nature. Like I said, it isn’t always bad, so we don’t need that trait to be gone, but there are times in our lives that it isn’t healthy or helpful. Once you figure it out, you can stop competing with other people and look at yourself in a positive way. Rather than losing a beauty contest, which only exists in your head, you are your own person and they are their own person.
Now you can also stop thinking. This gives us the opportunity to be worry free. Though this likely takes the most time and patience in comparison to other reasons in this post, it is very true when it finally happens. If you are having a bad day, yoga gives us the tools to stop judging ourselves and others. We are able to stop thinking negative thoughts. This applies to a lot of things, but in this context, we stop thinking about what we feel is a flaw. Plus we’ve already learned that imperfection is OK, so now we can stop thinking about it if it starts bugging us at all, until we are ready to accept it again.
If you don’t think you can accept your imperfections or stop thinking about them, you will likely be forced to face them. You will also be forced to be vulnerable with them around other people too, if you take a class. Yoga isn’t all that glitz and glamour Instagram makes it out to be. It’s a lot of sweat, fat rolls, and, let’s face it, embarrassing poses. Yes, even the thinnest and strongest of yogis suffers through all of these. We accept that they happen, to ALL of us. And on top of all of these things we all go through, we all have our own weirdness we’re forced to face.
You may simply not like your butt, well, my friend, you are about to stick that think proudly in the air in Downward Facing Dog. Don’t like how your arms jiggle? Too bad! They’re getting sent up to the sky for everyone to see! Think Happy Baby is embarrassing? Well… you’re about to expose your (probably) covered genitals to the entire class.
It’s fun though! Especially these embarrassing poses. Everyone has fun, everyone laughs, and everyone accepts that it’s OK together.
After being forced to do a series of poses, you’ll find everyone is different and everyone is happy you’re there. People are welcoming and happy to see you as you, not as “arm flaps”. Everyone has a goal of sorts too, but they are usually different from one another. One person is dealing with an injury, another is going through weight-loss, and someone else is working through grief. So you’re all working through something together anyway, even if you don’t know what it is.
On top of this, everyone in the class will probably look different. You get all sorts of shapes, sizes, and backgrounds. So your “weirdness” that you’re afraid of, is totally fine to everyone else.
Let’s be real though, while you’re accepting you are wonderful and attractive, you’re also strengthening your body. You may actually be changing how you look, so you could even start looking more how you want. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to change how you look, you just shouldn’t hate yourself in the process.
Even though we lean out and can be toned, we start to trust that there is more to us than looks. Our strength is more that what we appear to be. Besides, few people can really obtain and maintain a six-pack, without rigorous and strict exercise and diet. Your muscle definition is rarely indicative of how strong or useful your muscles are.
Finally, yoga combats depression and anxiety, which can be root causes or side-effects of low self-esteem. As you raise yourself up out of depression, you’ll find yourself feeling better about yourself as well.
You are worthy of your own love!