Building Confidence through Authenticity – Meet Justin Michael WilliamsMay 12, 2015
The Yoga and Body Image Coalition is committed to building conscious community and highlighting the work that inspiring yogis are doing in their local communities and beyond. We’re pleased to introduce you to Yoga and Body Image Coalition community adviser, Justin Michael Williams.
What is yoga’s impact on your body image?
Yoga has made me feel truly at home in my body. I struggled for a long time with body image issues. After moving to Los Angeles as an 18 year old, I immediately began to compare myself to the six-pack laden, 0% body fat, buff men that fill the city. I felt so insecure in my body that I went to many extremes in attempt to change my body into something that it simply was not meant to be. I tried the gym, trainers, pilates, diets, and every other type of physical activity and weight loss plan you could think of — but nothing worked for me… until I found yoga. My practice helped me to see the true strength and beauty of my own body exactly as it was. I began to accept my body as a gift, notice my strength, and feel myself transforming my deprecating self-talk into comments of self-love. My asana practice made me understand my body in a brand new way. My meditation practice helped my appreciate my body’s unique magic. Practicing with other yogis allowed my to identify my unique strengths and realistic places for improvement. For the first time, I felt like I was at home in my own body.
Do you have a positive body image at all times?
To be totally frank, I do not have positive body image at all times. My body image ebbs and flows, but I’m thankful that my practice keeps me from going too far down the rabbit hole of negative self-talk. I travel often for my work and sometimes traveling takes a toll on my body and physical practice. When I’m not feeling at my best, I catch myself in negative self-talk and remind myself that my body is a sanctuary. Here’s a practice that I use often when the negative patterns begin to creep in. Use the mantra “Om Shreem Maha Lakshmiyei Namaha” — repeat this mantra with your eyes closed 11 times to remind yourself of your inner beauty and radiance. This mantra honors the Goddess Lakshmi, who represents our inner most Soul beauty.
Describe one of your transformational moments on your mat.
There was a point in my early twenties when I was doing everything I could to look like the buff male-models I saw in my Los Angeles community and media. I was working out twice/day and filling my body with protein powders, chemicals, supplements, and sticking to a ridiculous diet. I even abandoned my yoga practice because it was an “ineffective workout” and was not providing me the vanity-focused benefits I was craving at the time. I looked great, but inside I felt terrible. After months without yoga, something called me back to my mat. I attended a class with Saul David Raye, the theme of the class was all about self love. I spent most of the practice on my knees weeping. In that moment I had a realization on my mat that self-hate and negative body image had somehow taken the driver’s seat in my life. It was in that moment that everything transformed. I flowed the class feeling my inner-strength rebuilding and my inner-light burning a little brighter. Practicing Pratyahara allowed me to turn my senses inward and begin to heal my wounds and start over. The practice changed my path and I found my way back home.
How does your work address body image issues?
My role as a speaker and teacher in our community is to empower people to find their authenticity and share it with the world with confidence and clarity. This mission is a common thread through all of my teachings. My asana instruction on YogaVibes addresses body image issues directly by allowing yogis to feel powerful in their own bodies. I love to create sequencing that allows yogis to feel their own power and strength while helping them pass their growth edge. We build strength from the inside out — building unshakeable confidence in our own authenticity, which includes our bodies.
Why do you believe these issues and this work is important?
We all have a body image — positive, negative, or somewhere in-between. This conversation gives people a safe place to realize that we all have different bodies and there’s no one-size fits all approach to yoga or life. As we hold the space for others to truly find the unique gifts of their own bodies, we empower them to touch their authentic point of radiance. This inner-most radiance is what fuels people to live from a place of love and acceptance. This work is so important in our world because it’s giving people a home in their own bodies — letting them know they are loved and they belong.
If you could say 1 thing to your younger Self, what would it be?
If I could say one thing to my younger self, I would tell little Justin to fully honor and own his unique-ness. The things that make him feel “different” are actually the things that make him so special. Little Justin often feels like he doesn’t fit in and wants so desperately to feel like he belongs. I want him to know that his voice, his body, his looks, his interests, are so special and unique. Spend time crafting them and honoring his gifts as they will be the key to his success in the future.
Justin Michael Williams will help you find your authentic voice and share it with the world. He is a vibrant public speaker, musician, and successful yoga instructor who travels the globe training the conscious community to thrive in marketing, media, and business. Justin has spearheaded the marketing development and social media of over 150 brands, both large and small, including, Sianna Sherman, Ashley Turner, Noah Mazé, and more. He is also the Co-Founder of the Business of Yoga, LLC and hosts Yoga Business Retreats around the world, helping yoga teachers flourish in business. By using his expertise to coach individuals and nonprofits, Justin works to spread positivity and inspire change throughout the social web. See more at www.justinmichaelwilliams.com