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Embracing Body Positivity and Acceptance in Psychotherapy and Yoga: A Path to Healing and Self-Empowerment

In recent years, body positivity and body acceptance have become crucial components of mental health and wellness practices, including psychotherapy and yoga. For psychotherapists, yoga teachers, healing professionals, and the public, these concepts are not mere trends but essential elements for fostering mental well-being. By integrating trauma-informed therapy, nervous system regulation through Polyvagal theory, and Internal Family Systems (IFS) therapy, we can create a comprehensive approach to promoting body positivity and acceptance. This article explores the importance of these concepts, offers practical tips for professionals, and provides insights into recent research and resources from 2019 to 2024.

Body Positivity
Body Positivity & Self-Acceptance

The Importance of Body Acceptance and Body Positivity

Body acceptance and body positivity are vital for mental and emotional health. These principles encourage individuals to develop a healthier relationship with their bodies and minds. Both psychotherapy and yoga are uniquely positioned to support this journey due to their emphasis on mindfulness, self-awareness, and holistic well-being. Embracing body positivity can help individuals of all shapes, sizes, and backgrounds feel welcome and supported in their healing journey.

Trauma-Informed Therapy and Polyvagal Theory

Trauma-informed therapy acknowledges the profound impact of trauma on an individual's life and seeks to create a safe and empowering environment for healing. Polyvagal theory, developed by Dr. Stephen Porges, provides a framework for understanding how the nervous system regulates stress and trauma. According to this theory, the vagus nerve plays a critical role in our physiological response to safety and danger. By promoting a sense of safety in therapeutic and yoga settings, we can help regulate the nervous system and support trauma recovery.

Internal Family Systems (IFS) Therapy

IFS therapy, developed by Dr. Richard Schwartz, focuses on understanding and integrating different parts of the self. It posits that we all have various parts representing different emotions, memories, and aspects of our personality. Through IFS, individuals can learn to access their core Self, a state of inner calm and compassion, which can lead to profound healing and self-acceptance. In both therapy and yoga, this approach can be particularly powerful, as these practices inherently foster self-awareness and mindfulness.

Body Positivity
Diversity in Yoga

Creating a Body Positive Experience in Therapeutic and Yoga Settings

As psychotherapists, yoga teachers, and healing professionals, we have the unique opportunity to model self-love, acceptance, and body positivity. Here are some tips to help create a body-positive and inclusive environment:

Offer Modifications and Prop Options

To ensure all clients and students feel comfortable and supported, provide various modifications and prop options. This inclusivity allows beginners and those with physical limitations to participate fully and gain the benefits without feeling excluded or inadequate.

Create a Warm and Welcoming Atmosphere

Treat every individual with respect and kindness. Acknowledge the diversity of backgrounds and experience levels, and strive to make each person feel seen and valued. A warm and welcoming atmosphere can significantly enhance the therapeutic and yoga experience, fostering a sense of belonging.

Use Positive and Empowering Language

Language matters. Use positive and empowering language to help individuals feel safe and encouraged. Avoid phrases that imply judgment or negativity, such as "Don't do it like this" or "This way is wrong." Instead, focus on what individuals can do and encourage them to explore their healing journey at their own pace.

Encourage Conversations About Body Positivity

Facilitate discussions on body positivity and acceptance. Encourage clients and students to share their thoughts and experiences, creating a supportive community where everyone feels heard and understood. Consider themed sessions that focus on self-acceptance and body positivity, reinforcing these values through practice.

Promoting Self-Acceptance & Ease

Practical Practices for Promoting Body Positivity and Acceptance

Guided Imagery and Visualization

Encourage clients and students to engage in guided imagery and visualization exercises that promote a positive body image. This can involve visualizing themselves in a state of health, strength, and relaxation, focusing on appreciating their bodies for what they can do rather than how they look.

Breathwork and Mindfulness Meditation

Incorporate breathwork and mindfulness meditation into sessions and classes. Practices such as deep diaphragmatic breathing, alternate nostril breathing, and body scan meditations can help regulate the nervous system, promote relaxation, and enhance body awareness and acceptance.

Embodied Movement Practices

Encourage embodied movement practices that emphasize the joy of movement rather than physical appearance. This can include yoga flows, dance, or gentle stretching routines that focus on how the body feels during movement rather than how it looks.

Self-Compassion Exercises

Integrate self-compassion exercises into therapy and yoga sessions. Techniques such as loving-kindness meditation, self-compassionate journaling, and affirmations can help individuals cultivate a more compassionate and accepting relationship with their bodies.

Journal Reflections for Professionals

Reflecting on your practice can help you integrate body positivity more effectively. Consider the following questions:

  • Why are body positivity and body acceptance important issues today?

  • As therapists and teachers, what are some ways we can promote a body-positive environment in our sessions and classes?

Journal Reflections for Clients and Students

Reflection 1: Exploring Body Positivity

Take a few moments to reflect on your journey towards body positivity and acceptance.

  • Journal Prompt: What does body positivity mean to me personally? How has my relationship with my body changed over time? Identify specific moments or experiences that have influenced your body image positively or negatively. How can I cultivate a more positive and accepting view of my body in my daily life?

Reflection 2: Integrating Self-Compassion

Consider how self-compassion plays a role in your journey towards body acceptance.

  • Journal Prompt: How do I currently practice self-compassion, and how does it affect my relationship with my body? Reflect on moments when you have been critical of your body and how you could have approached those situations with more compassion. What self-compassionate practices can I incorporate into my routine to support my body positivity and overall well-being?

Recent Research and Resources (2019-2024)

Polyvagal Theory in Practice

Recent studies have highlighted the effectiveness of incorporating Polyvagal theory into therapeutic practices. For instance, research published in the Frontiers in Psychology (2021) emphasizes how yoga can stimulate the vagus nerve, promoting relaxation and emotional regulation. Integrating these insights into both therapy and yoga can enhance their therapeutic benefits.

Internal Family Systems and Yoga

A study in the Journal of Clinical Psychology (2020) explored the synergy between IFS therapy and yoga, finding that combining these approaches can significantly improve self-awareness and emotional resilience. Professionals trained in IFS can guide clients and students in recognizing and embracing different parts of themselves, fostering deeper self-acceptance.

Body Positivity and Mental Health

Research from the International Journal of Yoga Therapy (2022) indicates that body-positive practices can reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression. By creating inclusive and supportive environments, therapists and yoga teachers can contribute to the mental well-being of their clients and students.

Resources for Further Learning


Integrating body positivity and acceptance into psychotherapy and yoga practices is essential for creating inclusive and healing communities. By embracing trauma-informed therapy, Polyvagal theory, and IFS therapy, professionals can provide a holistic and supportive environment for all individuals. Through continuous learning and reflection, we can promote a culture of self-love and acceptance, empowering everyone to experience the profound benefits of these practices.

With love, AGLOW

Stacy Ruse, LPC, RYI, EMDR & IFS Consultant

Stacy Ruse, LPC, is an esteemed Evergreen EMDR & IFS-Institute Consultant, and founder of Aglow Counseling. Stacy teaches a therapeutic style that is characterized by the art of EMDR & IFS therapies with a transpersonal twist, transcending the conventional boundaries of traditional therapy. Her holistic approach acknowledges the interconnectedness of mind, body, and spirit allowing individuals to tap into their innate resilience and ignite their personal transformation journey. As a trauma expert, national and international trainer, and clinical consultant, Stacy's approach is deeply rooted in trauma-informed methodologies.


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