I came to yoga as a teenager because it welcomed my body the way it was and said that my soul could come to class, too. Never an athletic girl, and always either dieting or thinking I should have been, it was easy for me to take to the yogic truism, "You are not your body." My first response to this was, "Thank goodness, because I can't stand my body." But over time, it became, "I am a soul inhabiting a body, and that makes the body beautiful too."
This happened a massively long time ago, but the changes that started when I was barely out of high school have stayed with me and grown with me. Even though I am probably your grandmother's age, I still do yoga. In fact, during the pandemic shutdowns, I took an intensive Zoom course and graduated as an official yoga instructor just this month.
The training reminded me of concepts that helped me accept the face and body I saw in the mirror all those years ago. That approval has persisted, through middle age and past it. If this sounds good to you, too, take "Yoga's 5 Beauty Precepts" as if they were made for you, which they were.
1. The beauty of your soul is so extraordinary, your face and body can't help but reflect that light.
Beauty is our birthright because each of us, in yoga's view, is made of divine substance. Until we accept this as a given, we'll be scrambling after beauty in bottles and vials and procedures. Once we absorb the concept, the stuff in the bottles will just help us be more of who we already are.
2. Since your body is the temple of your spirit, self-care is as sacred as altar maintenance.
You can lose a lot of joy you were supposed to have by not accepting how gorgeous you are right this minute. When you do accept it—or when you can even valiantly pretend that you do—self-care gets easier and heaps more fun.
You can start with yoga's morning routine, influenced by her sister science, the ancient Indian healing system of Ayurveda. Start by gently removing from your tongue the metabolic debris (ama in Sanskrit) that you detoxed last night by gently scraping your tongue with a little copper or stainless steel tongue scraper. (Even if you're not so sure about ama, this practice gives you heavenly breath.) Then hydrate with warm or hot lemon or lime water, or your favorite herbal tea—16 to 24 ounces. Next comes a brief yoga asana practice with breathing exercises, followed by meditation. Do this for a month and take a selfie every seven days. I'll just bet you notice more of your innate beauty showing up in those progressive images.
3. Because your body, mind, and soul are all necessary for expressing yourself as YOU, what you do for one part of yourself nurtures all the others.
When you nurture your body with beautiful food, movement that feels super-good when you finish (even if it wasn't so hot when you started), refreshing sleep, and lots of good-smelling products, your mind is renewed and your soul is restored, too. Nurturing your mind with learning and your soul with meditation (or service or nature) help them and heal the body.
4. Because you're connected to all other beings, your life works best—and your beauty shows most —when you treat all human and nonhuman animals with kindness and respect.
Our culture has had it backwards in telling us, "Make yourself pretty and everyone will be drawn to you". What a myth! Yoga says that this attractiveness comes from treating every person and every being as if they were an expression of the divine, because they are. This makes life so simple: no more internal debates on where you stand on social issues, or endlessly weighing the pros and cons of becoming vegan; you'll simply stand by others, of all species, as you would want them to stand by you.
5. Your beauty is an identity to claim and hold onto through ages and stages all your life long.
Once it's in you, soul-deep, that you are beautiful because you are you, it's no longer something to chase after, agonize over, and fear losing forever to age or some other circumstance beyond your control. When beauty is part of your identity, you can't lose it. Sure, its outer expression will take different forms as life gives you various adventures, but your identity as a beautiful woman, a woman of substance inside and out, is yours to keep. If someone else can't see that, they simply have a ways to go.
Victoria Moran is the author of Main Street Vegan, host of the Main Street Vegan Podcast, and director of Main Street Vegan Academy, training and certifying vegan lifestyle coaches and educators.