A year ago, if you were to tell me I’d one day choose yoga over weight lifting I’d laugh in your face and quite honestly tell you to beep off.
Years ago I had a therapist tell me I may not like working out, that my eating disorder was the one who liked working out so much. I quite literally yelled at her and never came back.
A few years later, my what was soon to be, long term medical team, suggested I may not love fitness as much as I did at that moment.
I preceded to tell them to beep off and didn’t listen to their no working out policy for the majority of treatment.
Yoga was something I started once I was in college. But it was never justified as a work out, it was simply a relaxing hobby to do after a 4 hour gym work out.
At first yoga very was hard. All I could focus on was how many rolls my stomach had in forward folds (peep the header image) and if my love handles were bursting out during downward dog. I continuously compared myself to every other Yogi in the class, condemning myself for being so fat and so bad at yoga.
But I kept going. Somehow, thankfully, I found the strength and patience to keep going.
After a few months, I found yoga to be the best, most effective way to progress in recovery. I found myself yearning for my mat instead of weights. This transition terrified me. How could I be becoming a someone who didn’t lift weights? Who didn’t spend all day at the gym? Why were my workouts beginning to feel like a chore?
I noticed such an indescribable difference in how my body moved and felt in yoga versus overloading on heavy weights. I began flirting with the idea of practicing yoga everyday instead of the gym, but I was too scared. Scared I’d loose my muscle and gain weight.
Where now two years later, yoga is my shit. It’s how I replenish my mind, body and soul. I am amazed today and everyday how easily I could go 7 days of yoga without realizing I haven’t been to the gym.
I still enjoy working out, but my mind finds so much peace with yoga. My body finds release in yoga. Practicing my breathe and being in the moment has been a complete game changer for my anxiety and thus my eating disorder.
It is quite obvious my commitment to practicing is reflected in the loudness of of my eating disorder voice but obviously there’s obvious bad days and definitely some draw backs of practicing. Sometimes I like to flow by myself, or use an online video- but there’s something about practicing with others that really energizes my soul.
As someone who moves around a lot, finding a yoga studio has been my biggest struggle. My hometown studio is the perfect balance of strength and comfort. I find peace in their practice. But when I travel, I’m forced to explore new places- which can be fun, but can also totally not be.
Reason being that I always somehow imagine the studio filled with beautiful models in matching perfect cute yoga outfits, with extreme flexibility and abs tighter than my hamstrings.
And yet surprisingly, that never seems to happen.
Still, it’s a struggle.
Labor Day weekend I went to a vinyasa flow where the teacher kept talking about how all our hard work was “earning us holiday food”- which immediately spiraled my mind into a cluster of numbers, planning and stress leading to another weekend wasted on the ED.
A few weeks ago I spent a class repeatedly hearing that if I want to see my body change I have to work for it- something that my eating disorder jumped on and emphasized..repeatedly.
And yes, as petty as it is, I face the anxiety of comparison. Of course I was joking above and not every studio (or any) are filled with all “perfect” beings, but a lot of my experience in a public yoga class is effected by those around me. I still do get caught up occasionally staring and comparing, shamefully admitting I find immediate peace when the class is filled with “normal” people or I at least manage to place my mat across the room from the hot chick in the sports bra so I’m able remind myself this is my practice.
Not ideal- I’d rather just see her and smile as I take in the positive energy she most likely has to offer, but I’m making progress.
By practicing yoga, we can connect with our bodies in a factual matter. With eating disorders, we are constantly bashing out bodies, disassociating our bodies from ourselves. Our thighs are so squishy, are arms are flabby the list goes on…
But in yoga, we can connect with our bodies in a more factual manner- spinning our inward thighs up, deltoids back and down the back, legs lunged and pulling together. These mindful instructions are what allowed me to start to “feel” my body. To learn my actual body. I’m still learning but I can finally allow myself to explore my body in a practice.
A lot of times in recovery, they have patients stare in a mirror and examine their own body in a mirror. They must go from head to toe explaining things like “ My eyes are shaped like almonds”, “My hair is down to my shoulders and brown” “My shoulders are a bit wider than my waste” – excluding all numbers and negative body talk (aka “My shoulders are huge and big boned”).
If I’m being honest, I freaking hate doing that exercise, which is probably why I should do it more but in the meantime, yoga is a more sly way of practicing it.
The more and more you practice and allow yourself to fall into that special place on your mat, the more you can relate to your body.
I urge all, but especially my fellow eating disorder patients to try yoga, to honestly just give it a shot. Push pass the uncomfortable part of feeling your body move in ways that make you wig out. It’s worth it.