Workouts That Help You Feel Better About Your Body

Mind-body exercises can give your body image a boost, practitioners say.

By Barbara Russi Sarnataro
WebMD Weight Loss Clinic - Feature

Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Ever since she first saw the movie Dr. Zhivago, Barbara Moroney had longed for Julie Christie's nose -- and her 21-inch waist. Oh, and a couple of extra inches of height wouldn't be bad either. Moroney was petite, not overweight, but she still didn't like what she saw in the mirror.

After she started practicing yoga, all that changed.

"In the first couple of months, I started feeling this release of all this tension," Moroney tells WebMD. A few years later, she says, "I realized that the ideal image I had of my body no longer worked for me. The realization made me focus on how I could change."

Even in the midst of a culture that promotes dissatisfaction with our appearance, adherents say that yoga, Pilates, and other mind-body exercises can teach us respect for our bodies -- whatever their shape.

"Body image, how we view ourselves, often lacks compassion," says Steven Hartman, director of professional training at the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health in Lenox, Mass. "Many of us learn at an early age how to disconnect from our body and our body's signals. We learn not to pay attention to pain, to joy in our bodies."

Through yoga, he says, you can re-create a relationship with the body. In each pose, your attention is drawn not to how you look in your tights, but to whether you feel tight hamstrings or an imbalance in the alignment of your hips. Yoga, says Hartman "helps you have an objective awareness of the body."