An excerpt from an article in the August 2014 issue of Yoga Journal Spain:
I crept, almost crawled, into that first yoga class, acutely aware of the physical strength of the women surrounding me. I had stepped into a photo of yoga bodies straight out of a Lululemon catalog. My cheeks blushed, my breath quickened, and my palms began to sweat. I quickly placed my mat in the farthest corner of the room in an attempt to hide, but the room was small and there would be no hiding. The class began and I quickly realized it was not for beginners. I did my best to follow along, but sweaty hands and feet do not stick to yoga mats and my muscles were trembling. It was a struggle. I was drenched in sweat, face purple from exhaustion, head spinning, body shaking as the class came to an end. Most people in my position would have never returned, but I was not most people.
I was six-months into my recovery from binge eating disorder. I had been attending weekly therapy and was trying to find a form of exercise that would fit my therapist’s criteria of “movement for the joy of movement.” I had found that sensation in Zumba classes - the fun of dancing to loud music without mirrors, without judgement - but there was still something missing. I would soon find that something on my mat.
I had always been intrigued by the idea of yoga and had taken a class or two over the years. They had either been too much like stretching or just like gym class from my school days. I could feel that this time was going to be different. I just knew it deep down in my bones. So, the next Friday, I went back…and the Friday after that…and the Friday after that. And after a few months of weekly practice, I touched my toes in a forward fold for the first time and the pure joy I felt radiated from my very being. It was a joy I had not felt for a very long time, maybe ever, a joy of pride in what my body could do. A joy that hope was real and alive in me. It might have gone unnoticed by others in the class that day, but I will never forget my eyes locking with my teacher Laura’s as she recognized my accomplished and beamed with the same pride. I think it was in that moment that our friendship truly began.
I soon confided in Laura that I had come to yoga because of my eating disorder and that I could honestly say it was helping. She cried tears of understanding, having experienced her own healing on the yoga mat years earlier. She then became my biggest advocate on the mat, striving to help me deepen my mind-body connection and to learn to come to a place of love for my body. She studied and shared her learnings and has taught me so much both on and off the mat and for that I am eternally grateful.
She recently asked me to explain what it is specifically about yoga that has helped me with my eating disorder. First you must understand that eating disorders are a coping mechanism. They can help people control their emotions, calm their anxieties, and numb their pain. An eating disorder has a function, otherwise it would not last so long. The trick to recovery is to learn how to replace the function that the eating disorder served with healthier behaviors. At first, the emotions that rise to the surface feel completely unnatural because you haven’t allowed yourself to feel them for so long and your immediate impulse is to use the eating disorder to push them aside. And it is so hard to resist those urges, they have been your “natural” response for so long. It takes practice and patience, both of which you learn on the mat.
When I am on the mat, I feel the kind of feeling that I want to feel all the time. I feel pure bliss. I am in the moment like no other time. I lose all track of what is going on around me and really focus on the task at hand. I am in my body, not my mind. I am breathing and releasing and moving to the rhythm of my breath. I am happy. When I am on my mat, I know that everything really is going to be alright. I know that I can do anything...and I plan on doing a lot.
Pictured above, Laura Granado of Abi Yoga (my yoga teacher and best friend) and and me, Britt Melton of Oh, How She Blooms!