By Erica Rood, M.A. Ed.

Brace Yourself

According to an NYU Child Study Center survey of 5th-12th grade girls, 59% were dissatisfied with their body shape and 47% 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. Teens Before Their Time found that satisfaction with body image decreases as girls move into adolescence.

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, digitally altered images they see on social media, 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 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 suffers. 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.

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

Four ways yoga helps

1.  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.

2.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 others’ points of view. Yoga encourages compassion, kindness, and non-violence.

Poses to try: Bridge, Wheel, and Camel

4.  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.

All of my yoga workshops combine the physical practice of yoga with creative coaching exercises. Girls learn the benefits of yoga, while developing self-awareness, practicing life-skills, and finding their inner and outer strength.   Click here to learn more.