My Body Image, My Self: Weighty Stories of Self-Acceptance, Part 3

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Dana Smith, Author of YES! Yoga Has Curves, Talks About the Power of Self-Love

In this six-part series, Yoga Journal asked six women participating in the Practice of Leadership conversation on Saturday, July 12, 2014, what body image means to them. Disclaimer: It’s positive, pop-y and powerful. And yes, as a yoga community, we do believe experience is everything.

Meet Dana Smith, yoga teacher, certified Master Life Coach, Holistic Health Practitioner and author of YES! Yoga Has Curves. She’s also an ally and adviser of the Yoga + Body Image Coalition.

YJ: The most empowering image of a female is…

DS: ...one where she shows quiet strength. I believe that when we spend so much time defending, seeking validation and living outside of ourselves we give away our power.

YJ: How would you describe your relationship to your body image?

DS: It’s constantly evolving into a beautiful space of unconditional self-love and self-acceptance. Before I found yoga I would hold back from accepting and loving my body as it was. There was always something I felt needed changing—and quick. Often I was looking at my body through the glasses of someone else and failed to see my true beauty. Now from this space of love and acceptance of myself I can make any changes I see fit without stress or pressure. My path is to be the healthiest me, and I know this will reflect in not only my body but also my mind and spirit.

YJ: What scenario taught you more about self-acceptance?

DS: I learned about true self-acceptance in stages. I decided to go far away from home for college, because I felt I needed a break from city life. When I got there, I got a shell shock. I wasn’t in New York anymore, and there were a lot of people here from down south. I was afraid they wouldn’t like me, that I wouldn’t fit in some way. I was always a very introverted person and making friends was never easy. I feared my silence would be taken as me being stuck-up, so I set out on a mission to prove that I could be outgoing and friendly.

This lasted several months and it all but drained the life out of me. It was hard being someone I wasn’t. One day while getting ready to drag myself to a party on campus I took a hard look in the mirror and asked, why am I doing this? I wanted people to like and accept me, but then it hit me, I didn’t like me. And if I didn’t like or accept myself, how could anyone else? That night I decided not to go to the party and thus started my journey. Today I am happy to say that I am authentically me, and if my ego whispers lies into my ear, I look into the mirror and say: I love myself totally, fully and unconditionally and that is ALL that matters.

YJ: What has your physical body taught you about your emotional self?

DS: My physical body brings my emotions to light. I always had a habit of stuffing down or reasoning my emotions away when they felt good. My body would react immediately and SHOW me what emotions I was hiding from. In time I learned that it is fine to feel what I feel and let go of what no longer serves me.

YJ: What can we do as a community to support women and create a body-positive culture?

DS: More diversity in media would go a long way to help encourage women to accept their bodies. We can host conferences, workshops, classes, and lectures all over the world promoting body acceptance. We need a louder voice! When we begin to truly accept ourselves and love ourselves this energy will radiate out and it is infectious.

YJ: Choose one: Body, mind, soul.

DS: My soul is the glue. It is what drives me, what supports me, what helps me to grow authentically.

YJ: If you could speak to your physical body, you would say, “_________.”

DS: I haven’t always been good to you. There have been times where I have ignored you, abused you and took you for granted. But you were always there for me, allowing me to move toward my passions and away from the things that kept me in negative cycles. You remind me that I am a woman, a beautiful, curvaceous woman, and I am grateful to you. You supported me as I carried and birthed two beautiful children in two different ways. You are perfect! Every inch, every line, every dimple—pure perfection. Thank you just scratches the surface of my deep love and appreciation for you. But please accept those two words and know that I will spend the rest of my life taking care of you as you have of me.

YJ: And she would say back, “______.”

DS: Allow me to also give you those two beautiful words—thank you. You have challenged my strength, endurance and flexibility. We are one, we are in this together until the very end. I will always love you and support you.

YJ: What’s your best advice for feeling comfortable in your own skin?

DS: Connect to it. Every day I touch my skin and say loving affirmations, especially for those areas that are easy to judge. If you are not ready to stand naked in front of a mirror, light a candle and turn off the lights. Showing ourselves this deep love and affection can make us love ourselves that much more.

YJ: Fireworks or Firefly pose? (It is July…)

DS: Firefly pose all the way!

Join us this Saturday to hear more about Smith's personal experience with body image at Yoga Journal LIVE! San Diego. Or head over to our Facebook Practice of Leadership group to join the conversation. But first, read Part 4: Yoga Trailblazer Dianne Bondy Wants No Yogi Left Behind.