Growing up in America, I was bombarded with media, social standards and pressures on body image. I was a skinny girl (born with a high metabolism and long lanky limbs) and raised by my Mother who embodies true beauty: unconditional kindness, support and love.
I am fortunate to have grown up with a positive female figure, but unfortunately, it wasn’t enough. During the tender adolescent years, vulnerable to my surroundings (over-sexualized, and photoshopped images of women/men) and living a society which often values physical appearance over inner beauty, I had insecurities, just as many women (and men) do.
Fast forward to the age of 18 when I signed up my first yoga class ever. I remember the feeling as I walked into a room full of natural, strong and radiant women/men who graciously welcomed me and moved their mats so I had space for mine.
I felt accepted. I felt nurtured. I felt connected.
I also remember the feeling as I walked out of that same room, 90 minutes later after my first yoga experience. I felt humbled, enchanted, alive, happy, and grateful. I was humbled by the grace and wisdom my teacher possessed. I was enchanted with the practice and eager to come back. I knew I was alive from the beat of my heart and my awareness of breath. I was happy to feel gratitude for my amazing body which supported me during this (very hot, sweaty, strenuous) practice. I felt a complete sense of inner strength and beauty. I walked out of that room as if I was on top of the world and could conquer anything.
I bought an unlimited package and immersed myself daily.
Suddenly, when my environment changed, so did my attitude. The daily reminders of the most important (yet simplest) aspects of life (my internal bodies health, spiritual growth, and appreciation for each day) and being surrounded by a positive like-minded community of inspiring mentors began to work its magic.
The more time I spent in the yoga studio, the less the shape of my nose, the size of my feet or the brand of my clothing held relevance in my life.
Fast forward almost a decade later, and my yoga practice has become a priceless gift of acceptance, compassion and love for myself. I may no longer be worried about my physical appearance, however, I am working deeper, and more concerned with becoming a better person in my thoughts, speech and actions.
I am fortunate to have found yoga and given a glimpse of reality beyond the pressures of materialism and media, in order to look at what was reflecting in the mirror: a strong, healthy, imperfect but real woman.
I understand now that yoga is a process. It is a process of transformation and the realization of my incredible capabilities as a unique individual.
One of most important aspects of this process is treating my body as if it were a temple.
A beautiful, precious and sacred temple.
I know the more often I make healthy decisions (a steady yoga practice on and off the mat) the easier it becomes to embody and radiate the shining light within my temple.
Our Yoga practice should be one that honors and nourishes us from the inside, out. We should remember that looks only take you so far in life, and that authenticity, morals and happiness say much more about you than any body part ever could.
So go on, love yourself a little more and let your light shine bright.
LAUREN LEE E-RYT 500 is passionate about living with purpose, exploring the world, and empowering others to live as their most authentic, radiant Self. Founder of Raise Your Beat, dedicated teacher and forever student on the path of yoga, she leads transformational workshops, retreats and trainings to awaken the individual and collective consciousness. Read more about her here