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How Yoga Helped Me Love My Body

Bodies. We all have one. One of the easiest ways to identify ourselves, they can be manipulated with relative ease, and we often use them as a means of validation from others or ourselves. 

In most places, there’s a generic cultural norm for how a body should look, and the closer you can adhere to that norm, the more validated you are. The more beautiful you are, the more likable and desirable you are. 

Being bombarded with images of “perfect bodies” from a young age is inherently damaging for young people and likely one of the main reasons so many suffer from body image issues and eating disorders. 

how yoga helped me love my body

As for many, my journey with accepting my body as it is has been long and complicated.

I look back on my younger self and her obsession with how she looked and just want to give her a big hug and tell her that being thin won’t make her happy. That happiness comes from a completely different place to how you present physically and how your exterior is perceived by the outside world. 

A career in fashion surrounded by women obsessed with how small they could get their waists as a status symbol probably didn’t help me build the most healthy relationship with my body. An obsession with “healthy eating” and long-distance running were my outlets for ensuring I could retain the standard and not have a body that didn’t fit the norm. 

Despite these efforts, I still recall experiences of being told I was “too fat” to take part in certain events, and one of my resounding memories of those days was when a boss made me try on an outfit for fashion week that she clearly knew would be too small for me. She picked up the phone to ring one of her minions to bring up another item, “at least two sizes bigger,” all while cackling away that maybe I should eat less. I was 21. While at the time I laughed it off as a joke, that’s pretty damaging behaviour. In 2024 it would be labelled toxic and probably had a much longer lasting effect than I even realised. 

Fast-forward a decade of a rollercoaster journey with my body, with comparing it to others, hating it, using it to get what I wanted, not giving it the love it deserved. Allowing it to become excruciatingly thin at some point and then rapidly gaining 10kg in the space of two months at another. It was a journey to say the least. 

yoga & body image

But then yoga came into my life. And it changed everything. It offered a salvation, a meaning and a new perspective of this vessel that carries me through this life. An appreciation. A fascination. And gratitude for something so perfectly designed down to the very last detail that I felt bad for ever questioning its perfection. For trying to manipulate it in such a way so that others thought it was beautiful. 

Yoga allows you to become aware of your body. It's as simple as that. Thinking about your body and what it looks like is not the same thing as cultivating awareness of it and its intricate design. How everything works in harmony without you needing to do anything, how powerful and magnificent that is.

Practicing yoga allows you to connect with your inner and outer world simultaneously in a way that most other activities don’t. You need to slow down, notice every micro movement, and engage every muscle you never knew you had. It shows you strength, it shows you power and it shows you just how incredible your bones, joints and muscles fibres truly are. Created in such miraculous perfection that not even the most talented of artists could dream up. 

So, if yoga gave me a newfound appreciation for my body and an understanding of how it works, I then entered the next level in the game. Pregnancy. 

The idea of it always scared me. The thought of your body changing irreversibly with little to no control over what those changes are and how they will present in your body scared the hell out of me. 

I’d worked hard to maintain a body I was now proud of; strong, powerful, healthy. No restrictions, just movement for the joy of movement, nourishment that felt good and took care of both the emotional and physical needs food provides.

tree pose

What if growing another life undid all that work, and worse still, what if I got fat?! The subconscious fear of “needing two sizes larger” was still present in my mind, and all the swelling and softness of a pregnant body quite frankly freaked me out. 

Hours of anguish over whether I was ready or not to bring another human life into this world, was I ready, is this what I REALLY wanted or was it societal pressure niggling at my brain or my ticking biological clock that was trying to inform this decision?

Staring in the mirror at my tight, toned tummy, trying to imagine what it would be like swollen with someone else taking over, made me feel uncomfortable and scared. 

I had limited positive role models of what it meant to share your body with another life, and most of the content I saw online about pregnancy was women complaining, long lists of side effects, and “bad” things that would happen to your body as a result. “You’ll be exhausted, you’ll have backache, you won’t want to do anything coz you’ll be so large”.  

Unrelatable “earth mothers” who “just love being pregnant” also didn’t make me excited about the prospect of letting nature just do its thing for the course of a pregnancy and beyond. I just couldn’t imagine that having a swollen belly and inhibited movement could make anyone feel great. 

It started with the boobs, which I’d never had in my life. They got painful and engorged, and I FREAKED out. Was my whole body going to blow up like a giant balloon, was I going to expand into an unrecognisable version of myself? 

pregnant yoga

In the initial stages, the hormonal shift was a lot. I did not feel balanced and could feel the momentous shifts taking over my body. I felt out of control, I couldn’t keep up with my yoga practice, I tried to run but only made it to the end of my street before having to turn around and go home thanks to exhaustion. Was this how it was going to be for the next 10 months!? What had I done?! 

But as soon as everything started to settle down, the pregnancy hormones were present and not changing, a revelation came. This was the longest time in my life that I’d not had a chaotic, constantly changing cocktail of hormones flying round my body and it felt good. Not only good, great! 

My belly started to swell, and I can’t even explain how incredible it felt to feel life growing in my body.

Something I never thought I’d be able to embrace so easily. But it just felt right. And I loved my body for what it was doing for me, for how it was guiding me through the day-to-day, all while growing another human. It’s mind-blowing and powerful. 

Yoga has guided me through this pregnancy journey like a magic potion. I think I have my regular practice to thank for very minimal symptoms and for feeling so balanced and strong throughout pregnancy. 

As I enter the final days of my first pregnancy, let’s see where this journey goes next. What birth and postpartum life will do for my relationship with this bunch of bones and skin that carry me through this journey of life.

But all I know for now is my relationship with my body has forever changed for the better as I gasp in awe at what it can do and don’t punish it for what it looks like. 

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