By Campbell Kistner
Baltimore Watchdog Staff Writer
At a time when many people are focused on physical beauty and perfection, Yoga instructor Carrie Miller believes internal beauty is more important.
“Yoga, unlike the media, is for every body type,” Miller said. “The whole point is to achieve a union of the body, mind, and spirit. To achieve ones’ self.”
As part of National Eating Disorder Awareness Week, which was held from Feb. 27 to March 3, Miller helped Towson University students engage in a body-positive yoga session called Yoga Night. Sponsored by the university’s Health and Counseling Center, Body Image Peer Education students looked to get that message across through various events.
“Our goal this week is to raise awareness around campus of body issues,” said Ayonna Richardson, 22, a peer educator at the Health and Counseling Center. “With Bikini Body, we want to help explain to people that every single body is a ‘bikini body,’ regardless of size.”
Having a positive mindset about body image has become more difficult, particularly because of social media.
“Comments about a person’s body are not really aimed at people in a negative way, but more passive,” said Amy Dupuis, 20, a psychology major and peer educator. “People, women especially, struggle with the balance of being confident. Even though men struggle with eating disorders, it is more talked about openly amongst females.”
As Miller puts it, the beautiful thing about yoga is it’s not body image oriented.
“Yoga is about being present and appreciate how amazing it is to be alive,” the 33-year-old Towson graduate student said. “Being inundated to unrealistic body image expectations is not healthy for people to do.”
While working mostly with women in her sessions, Miller said men come in more to achieve inner peace, something they don’t necessarily get with the physical fitness exercise they gain from time in the gym.
It was a thought echoed by others.
“When guys talk about their bodies, they don’t shame themselves,” said Melanie Montanaro, a psychology major and peer educator. “It’s more stated as a fact that they are out of shape.”
Physical health is important, Miller said, but the mental and spiritual aspects are what she hopes to achieve with her students.
“I volunteer for these events because I want people to cherish their bodies,” Miller said. “And to cherish their unique selves no matter what society believes is the standard.”
While people can work towards a more physically-fit body, they may not be able to achieve that same level of success within themselves.
“I help a lot of my patients after surgeries,” said Ashli Greenwald, 41, a registered Bariatric Dietician. “And after the weight-loss, they are not always able to see the progress they have made.”
Messages about positive body image, Miller said, is something she tries to weave into all the classes she teaches. Miller’s goal is to help students become more in tuned with and nourish their bodies, instead of abusing them.
“If everybody practices compassion for each other, no matter what their bodies are, we can care more about each other regardless of beauty standards,” Miller said. “By starting to appreciate each other for our hearts, minds, and spirits, we can change society. We can’t do it alone. We have to do it together.”