Yoga helps boost a healthy body image

Yoga helps boost a healthy body image

Heather Mabrey, a part-time health and fitness coach for the past two years, admits she’s had to struggle a bit to maintain a healthy, happy body image.

But after practicing Yoga at YAM for several months now, Heather says she has a deeper appreciation for her body and a better understanding of what feels right for her insides on any given day.

“I remember the day when I first wore my yoga shorties in class. Not a big deal in the grand scheme of things, but a big deal for me because I was super self-conscious in them and felt fat,” says Heather, an audiologist by profession who has always been an exercise enthusiast of all kinds. “It was then that I looked at myself in the mirror for the first time in a long time and really thought I was OK. My body was OK and I didn’t need to change anything.”

That’s the goal of Yoga. It isn’t to be perfect at every pose. It’s to realize you have everything you need and let go of what isn’t useful. By silencing the mind, focusing on the breath and body, we can put a stop to the dangerous habit of perfectionism and acknowledge all the good things our bodies do for us. In return, we become more aware of what our bodies need.

Heather has become better at listening to her body. In years past, she craved that sweaty ‘burn’ while exercising. She still loves that feel, but some days she’s gentler with herself, and that’s OK.

“I understand my insides better. I’m better able to relax and understand my limits and then be OK with those limits,” Heather says. “I try to remind myself that I’m here, present and it is just what it is.”

Once a big meat eater, Heather now enjoys a more plant-based diet, finding it gives her more energy. “I find that being compassionate with my food choices, noticing what fuels my body better, is another way to appreciate my body in my busy, daily life,” she says. “I watch what I put into my body to make sure I’m fueled for Yoga class, but not overly full that I feel sluggish.

“Even on days I don’t go to class, I find myself looking for that balance of ‘eating to live’, not ‘living to eat,’” Heather says.

Heather, who has been diagnosed with narcolepsy, a complicated sleep disorder, has also gained another benefit from Yoga: her sleep is less interrupted during the night. “Do I still have narcolepsy? Absolutely. Are the symptoms somewhat better? Most definitely,” she says.

Her boyfriend has also noticed a change in her. She’s happier, more at peace and “less reactive to everyday stuff,” she says.

Heather tries to fit in a Yoga class at least several times a week and has enjoyed all the classes, especially Tish’s Power Flow classes and Jen’s Yoga Tone class. She says the Yoga Tone class is tough, but poses can be modified for the beginner.

“My practice has improved significantly from Yoga Tone. The big thing for me is understanding the limits of my mind versus the limits of my body,” Heather says. “My favorite part is that the class will make you laugh, smile, and have fun, all while enduring the burn!

Heather says the variety of instructors at YAM brings a wealth of experience to the classes. “People are there to help you. You are not just another student, you really matter, and it is evident in the interactions that take place from the front desk and on to the mat,” Heather says.

“It is because of Yoga and YAM that I have the body confidence that I do today,” she says.