Workouts That Help You Feel Better About Your Body
Mind-body exercises can give your body image a boost, practitioners say
Ever since she first saw the movie Dr. Zhivago, Barbara Moroney had
longed for Julie Christie's nose -- and her 21-inch waist. Oh, and a couple of
extra inches of height wouldn't be bad either. Moroney was petite, not
overweight, but she still didn't like what she saw in the mirror.
After she started practicing yoga, all that changed.
"In the first couple of months, I started feeling this release of all
this tension," Moroney tells WebMD. A few years later, she says, "I
realized that the ideal image I had of my body no longer worked for me. The
realization made me focus on how I could change."
Even in the midst of a culture that promotes dissatisfaction with our
appearance, adherents say that yoga, Pilates, and other mind-body exercises can
teach us respect for our bodies -- whatever their shape.
"Body image, how we view ourselves, often lacks compassion," says
Steven Hartman, director of professional training at the Kripalu Center for
Yoga and Health in Lenox, Mass. "Many of us learn at an early age how to
disconnect from our body and our body's signals. We learn not to pay attention
to pain, to joy in our bodies."
Through yoga, he says, you can re-create a relationship with the body. In
each pose, your attention is drawn not to how you look in your tights, but to
whether you feel tight hamstrings or an imbalance in the alignment of your
hips. Yoga, says Hartman "helps you have an objective awareness of the
Christina Sell, author of Yoga from the Inside Out: Making Peace with
Your Body through Yoga, says yoga puts you in the moment.
"It's very here, very now, how you stand on the earth, how the position
of the body feels on the mat," says Sell, a certified Anusara yoga
instructor. "If you're focusing on the immediacy of the body's sensations
and the steadiness of the breath, then the attention rests inside the body as
it is, rather than in the mind and its projections and images about what
Moroney, who also practices the Chinese art of qigong (a movement, breath
and meditation exercise), says that at age 58, she's more at peace with herself
than she was at 28.
"I'm learning that the body I have is a reflection of who I am
inside," says Moroney, author of Natural Body, Natural Shape: Develop a
Strong Self Image, Good Health & Ageless Grace & Beauty through
Yoga. "I'm more relaxed and less stressed. I see the world
But it's not just mental, she says. Yoga helps you to become physically
stronger, better aligned, and more flexible and that, combined with the release
of tension, "causes the natural shape of the body to change," she
"When you look in the mirror, you begin to see a younger-looking person.
You have better posture. You look thinner. Yoga puts your tummy in place, your
butt in place, and reduces stress, and a stress-free face looks