The Emily Project presents body positivity yoga

Wednesday, March 1st, 2017
Jessica Delgado (left) participates in Wellness Wednesdays event “Body Positive Yoga” in the IWC on Wednesday, Feb. 22. “This was so much better than a normal yoga class, because it was more about body awareness than what you or the pose is suppose to look like,” Delgado said. (Photo by Nicole Girgen)

Jessica Delgado (left) participates in Wellness Wednesdays event “Body Positive Yoga” in the IWC on Wednesday, Feb. 22. “This was so much better than a normal yoga class, because it was more about body awareness than what you or the pose is suppose to look like,” Delgado said. (Photo by Nicole Girgen)

Michaela Gaffke / Winonan

“I am,” Lisa Diers, director of nutrition and yoga services at The Emily Program, said as she inhaled and stretched, “enough,” she said as she exhaled and relaxed. Students mimic her, stretches in the Integrated Wellness Complex fitness studio.

The Emily Program was founded in 1993 for eating disorder awareness and treatment. The program has over 115 yoga classes per week. Body positive yoga is a huge part of their treatment program, with more yoga classes than any other treatment program in the country.

“Truly, yoga is body positive,” Diers said. “Yoga is all about meeting and adapting the poses to meet the students. Authentic yoga is all about tuning into your body.”

The fitness studio was flipped, Diers faced the mirror as students had their backs to the mirror. She gave instruction on poses, and left it open to each student’s feelings on how they wanted to achieve the pose. She encouraged students to not worry about doing it right, because there is no right or wrong way.

“Does this feel okay in my body now? How can I intuitively adapt? Does it hurt? If so, don’t do it,” Diers said. “I will not come around and do adjustments [to the poses].”

She gave instruction on poses, but reminded the students every time to do the pose as they are comfortable, and to not push themselves further than they should. Diers narrated every pose, adding positive words to every pose.

“Yoga authentically is not an outward experience but an inward experience. The fact that we have to differentiate body positive yoga from regular yoga speaks to the disconnect we have of what yoga truly is,” Diers said. “If we were all practicing the inward focus way, we wouldn’t have to differentiate between regular yoga and body positive yoga.”

This event was the fourth time The Emily Program has been at Winona State. For the previous three visits, there were only presentations done by outreach coordinators from The Emily Program. This is the first time body positive yoga has been done, Kate Hansen, health and wellness promotion coordinator, said. Health Promotion is aiming to have every student walk away with a new skill from every session they put on. By bringing hands-on yoga to The Emily Program’s presentation, students will hopefully walk away with new body positive yoga skills.

“Body positive yoga is about focusing on your mind instead of how you look during the session,” Hansen said. “It is not about feeling self-conscious and watching others to see what you are lacking.

Mollee Sheehan, director of web communications, Heather Gerdes, GBV project coordinator and Hansen have been collaborating on offering trauma sensitive yoga, which is similar to body positive yoga, to students. Sheehan is becoming a trained yoga instructor and they are currently looking for students to help guide them to create a welcoming yoga space on or off campus that would be free for students.

“The relationship between you and your body is the longest you’ll have in your life. It is a relationship, you might think I’m crazy, but pay attention to how you talk to yourself. There are ups and downs, and a healthy long-term relationship requires care. This relationship you have with your body can be complicated, and not always easy,” Diers said. “If you put your mind to it, you can have a healthy relationship with your body and yoga can help you get there.”

By Michaela Gaffke

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