Yoga has been around for more than 5,000 years, and during that time, countless people have experienced yoga's ability to soothe the soul. If done properly, yoga can help you bring intense focus to things you want to change. That's just what happened to me.
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I used to hate myself.
I was 17 when I discovered the addictive drug of anorexia. My self-hatred grew and flourished like a proud peacock. It was my badge of honor.
I literally couldn't be with people. Someone would be talking to me, and all I would be thinking is, "What did I eat today? Why did I eat that? Why am I so fat? How will I burn it off? Maybe if I exercise for four hours I will be OK. I am a monster. I just won't eat the rest of the week to make up for what I ate today."
No matter what the person in front of me was saying, no matter what their lips were doing, I was in my own head, fighting with myself.
And I was losing.
Then, yoga found me.
If you've ever dealt with similar self-destructive thoughts (even if they're not related to an eating) here's how yoga can help you heal:
1. Yoga Quiets Your Mind
Doing yoga gave me an hour to 90 minutes where I was completely lost in my head. I was in a space in between my thoughts — the space in between my mind chatter. As an exercise bulimic (essentially, an over-exerciser), I was used to being at the gym and staring at myself in the mirror as I ran on the treadmill and criticized myself.
In yoga class, however, I started to find the piece of myself that I lost when I became so sick. I started to return to who I really was without thinking, "I'm so fat" or " I'm a monster."
I wasn't completely cured overnight. There were still occasions in yoga classes where I would still feel what I perceived as my “fat rolls” while in a twisting pose, and I’d have a panic attack. Or I would all of a sudden remember what I ate and start hyperventilating.
But the spaces in between this got longer. Until that was all there was. Until I was living in the space in between.
Read more: 11 Yoga Poses for Stress Relief
2. You'll Learn the Power of Acceptance
It wasn't until I started teaching yoga that I truly healed. All of a sudden I felt accountable. I realized I was talking about acceptance and love, and if I had any integrity, I would have to truly accept and love myself.
I also realized that people were coming to me for support even before they knew how much I had suffered, because to put it simply, I made them feel safe. How could I go back to starving myself or hating myself when people were looking to me for hope? I couldn't. It was non-negotiable.
3. You'll Feel Joy
I jokingly call myself a certified joy-ologist. Obviously, I wasn't always. "I am making up for lost time," I tell people. I never thought I deserved joy before.
One of the main focuses of my classes (and my own yoga practice) is joy. Yoga has given me a space to play and be free and silly. I invented something called Karaoke Yoga®, and people love it. I truly believe it's because a lot of us have denied ourselves joy for far too long.
You must have at least one dance party a day in my book. Especially, if like me, you spent many years having no dance parties.
Read more: 13 Reasons to Start Doing Yoga
4. Mantras Are Daily Reminders
I started to include mantras in my yoga classes, and I lovingly dubbed them “mind tattoos.” For example, my mantra this week was "I am peace." In my classes, every time the hands come to prayer position at the heart center we have a silent mantra. My hope is that we re-wire our brain and our thoughts to exchange the negative for positive.
5. Yoga Helps You Let Go
One of the biggest ways yoga helped me heal from anorexia was the release it provided. I had stored so much pain and sadness in my body that often, when I practiced yoga, I would start sobbing. I wouldn't know where the tears were coming from. This used to scare me, but eventually I realized I was softening my grip. I was letting go of who I was in order to become who I am.
Yoga did all that. And it can do all of that for you, too. If you let it.
If anyone reading this needs support in overcoming an eating disorder, please reach out to me, or find me at one of my Manifestation Yoga Workshops in a city near you. You can also find additional eating disorder resources through the National Eating Disorder Association.