Girl Power, Yoga and Body Image

 

by Guest Contributor Erica Rood, M.A. Ed.

Brace yourself.  

According to an NYU Child Study Center survey of 5th-12th grade girls, 59 percent were dissatisfied with their body shape and 47 percent said they wanted to lose weight because of photos they saw in magazines. Dove’s Global Study, The Real Truth About Beauty, found 72% of girls feel pressure to be beautiful. TIME Magazine's Teens Before Their Time found that satisfaction with body image decreases as girls progress to adolescence.

In this media-rich, tech-drenched world, young girls face overwhelming pressure to be perfect. For many, the media shapes their definition of perfection. Girls are constantly exposed to images that suggest being perfect is entirely about outer appearance. They are persuaded to think that in order to be perfect, they must be thin and sexy, wear trendy clothes, use certain beauty products, and make it all appear effortless and natural. It’s an uphill battle and one that is compounded by a natural inclination for teen girls to compare themselves. Girls frequently size themselves up to their peers, adults in their lives, and movie and TV stars. The mix of perfection and comparison can have detrimental effects on a teen girl’s self-esteem. In my coaching practice, I have seen it time and time again. Teen girls are dissatisfied with their looks, hyper-critical of their body shape, style of dress, and even their abilities.

Alarmed?

This preoccupation with perfection and competition undermines a girl’s confidence and devalues her inner-beauty. When girls start placing greater importance on how they look rather than on how they feel or what they are capable of, their sense of self-worth weakens. When they start comparing themselves and striving toward an unrealistic, and therefore unattainable, ‘ideal image’ their self-esteem plummets. They feel bad about themselves when they can’t meet an idealized expectation.

When a girl’s self-esteem drops...

  • It negatively affects her behavior at school, at home, and with her friends
  • She is less likely to speak up in class.
  • She is more likely to be reactive or defiant at home.
  • She is also more likely to engage in harmful activities with friends, such as experimentation with drugs and alcohol.

Another bit of evidence from Dove Research: Rebuilding the Foundation of Beauty Beliefs: When girls feel bad about their looks, 70 percent disconnect from life—avoiding normal daily activities like attending school or even giving their opinion—which can put their dreams on hold, and jeopardize their potential as future leaders, decision makers, and role models. 

Yoga as a tool

Yoga encourages a strong, confident attitude. Yoga promotes self-acceptance, non-judgment and community. It teaches teens to respect themselves and make self-empowering choices.

Poses to try: Warrior 1, Warrior 2, and Mountain Pose.

Yoga embraces the uniqueness of every-body. Yoga attracts people of all shapes and sizes and reminds us that strength comes in many forms. On the mat, girls are reminded that each day is different and their bodies are always changing. They are encouraged to find gratitude for what their bodies can do.

Poses to try: Eagle, Tree, and Warrior 3.

Yoga is free from competition. Yoga is not about winning, nor being the best. Rather, it is about honoring yourself and being open to other’s points of view. Yoga encourages compassion, kindness, and non-violence.

Poses to try: Bridge, Wheel, and Camel.

Yoga reduces stress. Yoga offers time and space to find balance and peace. On the mat, girls learn to use their breath to calm their bodies and relax their minds. Almost all yoga classes end in a motionless pose called Savasana, which improves the skill of non-action and enhances the ability to relax.

Poses to try: Child’s Pose, Seated Twist, and Savasana.

 

Erica Rood, M.A. Ed. is a Certified Life Coach, Teacher, Author, Speaker, and Tween and Teen Enthusiast! She founded Inspire Balance to share her mission for educating and empowering girls to live happy, healthy lives.  Erica’s coaching is  unique because she combines her teaching skills with her life coach training to promote positive change through dynamic, engaging, and effective programs. 



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