How Yoga Helped Me Heal
In light of it being Eating Disorders Awareness Week, I am re-sharing a post I wrote for Yoga for Eating Disorders, a wonderful online community. This post shares a bit about how my own yoga practice evolved and helped me move into full recovery.
When I was 8, I walked into my parents’ room to find my mother standing on her head.
She was in the middle of a headstand posture as part of her yoga practice. As an 8-year-old, I thought it was silly but a part of me was intrigued. Looking back, I’m sure that part of me was my spirit.
She practiced yoga out of books. She would show me photos of people doing poses, which I now know are yoga asanas in Sanskrit terms. I would occasionally join, and roll around on the mat with her, laughing. Cognitively and emotionally, I didn’t grasp yoga at that age, but my body and my spirit were both on board.
Fast-forward to when I was 18 and a freshman in college. I was living in what I would now call quasi-recovery from an eating disorder. A lot of tough stuff had happened in those previous 10 years - my brother began battling a horrible substance addiction, my first love left for the Air Force, and I was sexually assaulted. It makes sense that I developed an eating disorder – it didn’t feel safe to be in my body anymore and I didn’t know how to navigate the intense emotions I was feeling – and I have a lot of compassion for my younger self.
Living in that place of quasi-recovery with less and less ED behaviors, I started to be consumed with anxiety. Now, with everything I know about EDs, I see why. Once behaviors are released, there is anxiety and every single emotion that was being numbed by the ED.
Something called me back to yoga. I believe it was my spirit - my intuition - that was whispering from underneath the pile of stuff from life the last 10 years. So, I went.
My college had a yoga class offered every week. I remember the instructor’s presence was so calming and nurturing, and so were her yoga classes. I kept going. Over time, along with nourishing my body well, I started to feel a little bit less anxious and a little bit more comfortable in my body. Little did I know, it was the start of another 10-year journey: this time one of coming home to my body and myself.
Throughout consistent and regular yoga practice, I started to reconnect with my body after the ED had severed that connection, as they do. Without my yoga practice, I’m not sure I would have fully healed. While regular nourishment, therapy, and learning how to cope healthfully were non-negotiables for me to move into full recovery, I’m not sure I’d be here without yoga. It helped me recreate that safety that had been lost in my adolescence.
My yoga practice taught me (and keeps reminding me) to look within myself, instead of outside of myself, for the answers I seek. It taught me that my thoughts are just thoughts, and I can come back to my breath first before I choose which ones are running the show here. Yoga taught me how to create space in my body to feel and move through emotion. It taught me that that I am so much more than a body. At the same time, it taught me what it means to be embodied - to listen to and honor my body - instead of running away from it.
Ever since that freshman year in college, my mat has been my safe place. It is the place I go to connect to my breath, my spirit, and my body. And for that, I am forever grateful.
Thanks for being here and reading. If you are struggling with an eating disorder, please reach out for support.
In true health,
If you’d like to join me for a gentle, online, pay-as-you can yoga practice (for all-levels), please click here or send me a message to find out more.
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