Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Beauty & Happiness

Yesterday I had the most extraordinary experience with a group of local teenage girls.

We gathered in a classroom at Eleanor Roosevelt High School to talk about beauty, values,
and yoga as part of my work with The Body Love Yoga Project.  As many of you know, this is a subject very close to my heart, as I struggled with body image issues and eating disorders throughout my late teens and early twenties.

As they gazed upon the images of black, white, old, young, conservative, edgy, and modern women, they chose one image and wrote all of the qualities that they liked about this woman.  Then they chose a second image, one that they didn't like as much, and wrote what they didn't like.

The results were incredible.

The majority of the girls liked the images of women who were smiling and relaxed. They attributed the beauty of these women to their self-confidence and an inner happiness. One girl said that she liked the image of a woman in a baggy sweater and hat because she seemed comfortable in her own skin. Another liked the plus size model because she seemed happy and set a good example for other curvy women. A quiet younger teen said she liked the mother and baby because there is something beautiful about being able to nurture and love another being.

When asked to describe the image of a woman that they didn't like, many of them pointed to the image of a business woman on the telephone. They said she looked distracted, tired, and there was a harshness in her face they thought showed her unhappiness. Another pointed to the image of a woman who seemed to be taking her top off. She said the woman would be much more beautiful if she wasn't trying so hard to be sexy.

After a nice full discussion I asked the girls to consider these qualities as their own. Which qualities did they link to beauty? Which qualities distract from beauty?  I explained that there are no right or wrong answers here. We can simply use this exercise to show us what we value, and when we are aligned with our values, we are happy, and happiness makes a person beautiful.

As cliched as it sounds, our take away from the afternoon was that beauty comes from connecting with what makes us happy. Whether it is nurturing others, owning our curves, traveling, resting, or having fun, it is this commitment to our values that will lead us to happiness. The girls were able to pick out which women were confident and happy and which seemed unhappy, distracted, or disconnected. Beauty had nothing to do with body shape, age, race, or clothing. It was the recognition that these women had connected deeply to their own inner values and were wearing them proudly. 










      

The afternoon ended with a playful yoga session where all twenty-seven of us lined up in the high school hallway and practiced embodying the positive qualities we wrote down.  Through warrior poses, balancing poses, and partner practices, we let our inner focus, resolve, and confidence shine through.  At the end, a few of the skeptics were asking how they could find more yoga.

I hope this little story inspires you to connect in your own way to the radiant confidence that lives inside you. If you have a few minutes, jot down some of the words that come to mind when you see a beautiful woman. My guess is that it will have nothing to do with the cost of her shoes, the size of her waist, or the color of her skin.

Then write what comes to mind when you see a woman who irritates you, upsets or disturbs you. If you want to go even deeper you can think about how these qualities may be parts of your own shadow lurking under the surface. How does the woman speaking loudly on her phone, pacing the aisles in the grocery store reflect back to you the images of ugliness that you carry with you.

To me, this exercise can show us both our strengths and our blind spots. It can help us locate our core values so we can and dress, live, eat, do our yoga, and walk in a way that radiates self-love and self-understanding. It can help us LIVE in accordance with our deepest values so no matter where we are, or what we are doing, or what kind of hair day we are having, we are presenting a congruent image of beauty that starts from the inside....and works its way out.


With Heart,
Ashley
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Interested in learning more about our work with teen girls?  Visit  The Body Love Yoga Project website and help us spread the word!

Yoga Blossoms: Yoga and Herbs for Girls 10 - 14
with Ashley Litecky & Amy Dixon

Sundays  July 13th -  27th
 12:15 pm - 1:45 pm

The heart, mind and body of a girl is full of delight and magic yet she can sometimes feel uncertain. This three week session, co-taught by Ashley Litecky and Amy Dixon, will focus on using yoga and the plant medicines to celebrate and support the pure beauty, strength and joy of the 10-14 year old girl.

Each session will include 45 minutes of a physical yoga practice, time in Ashley's healing herbal apothecary, and an introduction to the Indian medicinal practices of Ayurveda. In the Ayurveda session, we will do our yoga and then learn skin and self care practices to keep our bodies and skin healthy and bright. We will close the session with fun partner yoga and then ornament ourselves with henna and art.

July 13th - Yoga & Plant Medicine
July 20th - Ayurveda & Skin Care
July 27th - Yoga & Henna Body Art

Suggested Donation
3 -week session - $45 - $60 (recommended)
Single session - $15 - $25



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