Embracing the Demons of Anorexia Through Yoga

This is my latest article, published today on YogaModern.com 

Below is the piece, exactly as it appears on Yoga Modern, with the same images and all. Please enjoy.

 

In the past 15 months yoga has stepped into my life and reintroduced me to myself. And the Self that I’ve grown to know is lovely, dynamic, and healed.

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Creative Commons License photo credit: lululemon athletica

 

At age 17, I suffered a life-threatening eating disorder. The ensuing years left me in a heap of confusion, bobbing in swells of emotion that would come in and out like the tide. I don’t mean to insinuate I was unhappy; I’ve always been a brilliantly happy and vibrant individual, save for the year and a half that I was crippled by anorexia. I came out the other end, but turned a blind eye on my experience. I didn’t talk about it, I didn’t think about it, and I didn’t acknowledge it as a part of me. I had beaten the odds and left the sickness in my wake. That was my mistake. I was ashamed of my experience, ashamed of the memories and deeply traumatized by what I had put my mind, body and loved ones through. That blind eye had yet to see what yoga since taught me: that we must accept ourselves wholly, fully, and unconditionally.

Yoga reintroduced me to myself. The practice handed me the key to my own holistic wellness and, once unlocked, I was welcomed into a world of healing, hope and utter prosperity, both physically and mentally. My soul came alive when I realized that yoga is a deep and permanent part of my being, as much so as was my battle with anorexia. I am well and long-since recovered, but I’ve learned that our battle wounds are not something to cover or ignore. My practice has allowed me to see my body through new eyes;

I see my body now as an “instrument, rather than an ornament,” as Ashley Turner so poetically describes.

A little yoga backstory. I took my first class at the age of twelve. I vividly remember learning to press down with the four corners of my feet, and to use my big toe and pinky toe to balance in tree pose. From then on yoga had a place in my heart, though my practice was incredibly sporadic throughout my teens as I played every sport under the sun. I worked at a health club where I would practice as I began college. My practice grew even further while living in Florence, Italy for a semester abroad. My flatmate, also my dearest friend and fellow yogi, and I would practice each evening in our foyer, and on Sunday mornings. It has really been in the past year and a half, though, that I have truly began to study the practice of yoga. In this time, yoga has become more than a soothing and peaceful activity, it has become a mode of survival.

I am a “Type-A” perfectionist individual. I had always been an athlete, a social butterfly, and during my senior year of high school, I succumbed to the dark and devastating disease of anorexia. My once bright life morphed into one of doctors’ appointments, weigh-ins, half-hearted senior year classes, and a traumatizing prom full of stares and looks of concern. My “bright life” became one of huddling over the flame of a candle trying to beckon warmth for my shivering, waiflike frame. It was sad. It was sad and I thought I’d never climb out of the hole into which I’d fallen.

I remember thinking to myself, “I’ll get to have chocolate again one day, I’ll let myself have it on my wedding day.”

I had chocolate before my wedding day. I had broken into a thousand tiny pieces. My psyche, my heart, my body, all of it just crumbled. I had completely and utterly lost myself. I had been faced with hospitalization and I had one last chance to stop my weight from falling. I was beyond reluctant to eat the chocolate truffle cake that the waiter placed in front of me. I sobbed through every bite, but to this day I remember it being one of the most cathartic acts of my life.

yoga and eating disorderCreative Commons License photo credit: daniellehelm

Yoga has allowed me to look back on a part of my life that I viewed with regret and denial, and to accept it. It offered me the means through which to do the work of unlocking a lost part of myself. When one is handed a key, they still have to figure out which door to open. The practice has allowed me to welcome that piece of me, that piece that was lost and tortured and say, “you are part of me, I love and accept you, and without that darkness, life would not be so filled with light today.”

Yoga, like life, has many different aspects and niches. I practice Vinyasa Flow, am partial to restorative poses before bed, and have a burning desire to discover Ashtanga Yoga. I have practiced Sivananda Yoga, Iyengar Yoga, Yin Yoga and Hatha Yoga. While I always loved my yoga, until recently I just never fully understood that is the key to holistic wellness.

It has also helped me learn to use food as fuel and nourishment. Food was once something that I greatly manipulated and had developed a very disordered relationship with. Through my study of yoga I have grown to realize that eating what I like is very important, but thinking first about how my human vessel, my body, will benefit from the “fuel” is equally as important. I fell in love with Ayurvedic cooking techniques during my retreat on Sivananda Ashram and Yoga Farm last September, and I have since copied many of their delicious creations in my own kitchen. Because of my past, I don’t adhere to a specific label when it comes to food. I could easily be a vegetarian, even a vegan, because I frequently prepare my meals that way. I could be a pescatarian because I adore fish, and could easily live without other meat. I don’t digest dairy well and avoid it 98% of the time, but I choose not to dive into the world of veganism – as I did at the age of 18, in my struggle to recover and redefine “healthy eating.” I feel I’ve spent too much of my life allowing anorexia to restrict me, boxing me into a label, keeping me from enjoying my life to the fullest, from sharing meals with my loved ones. I choose for myself on a daily basis what fuel I put into my human vessel, and I find no solace in adhering to any other label than “me.”

This practice has allowed me to be flexible and embrace moderation in all areas of my life. I practice daily, but when my body asks for rest, I listen. Yoga has led me to introspective parts of my own soul and heart that I didn’t know existed. It has allowed me to slow down, look inward, and trust that nobody knows me better than I do.

 Holistic wellness means something different to us all, because we as human beings are all beautifully and radically different. Here is what it means to me:

I have the capacity to chase my bliss energetically in a healthy body, with a clear mind, and with a passionate soul. Yoga stirs the deepest elements of my bliss from the depths of my being. Yoga gives me energy and a strong, able body to chase my dreams. Yoga wipes clean the slate of my mind, calming chatter and offering serenity after exposure to chaos. Yoga unveils my truth, allowing me to look back on every experience I’ve had and embrace each one equally. Yoga sparks the passion within my soul, making me feel more at home and alive in my own skin than I ever thought possible.

 

Yoga has allowed me to accept myself, to worship and honor every bit of my own being. My flaws are my perfections because they are unique to me. My likes and dislikes are dictated by no one other than myself; my thoughts, actions and words are manifestations of the wellness I cultivate everyday on and off the mat. I am well, I am whole and I am a product of the blissful practice of Yoga.

 

I hold the Key...
Creative Commons License photo credit: *Micky

I have a spare key, care to use it?

 

Recipe Alert!

Healthy “Pudding”

 

Hi y’all! So here’s what I have for you today, a delicious ‘n yummy (and most importantly HEALTHY!) pudding.

I’ve made this a few times and I think I’ve found the proper ingredients and preparation techniques to suit what I was aiming for. 

The trick I came up with today, that worked very well, is to begin the pudding using a food processor (or if you want, and don’t mind the extra clean-up, do the whole thing in the food processor).

Using a food processor combine 1/4 cup rolled oats, 1 TBSP unsweetened cocoa powder, 1 TBSP chia or hemp seeds and two figs or dates. Process until the oats are powdered, the figs or dates have been chopped and the cocoa and seeds have blended in well to the mixture (about 30 seconds or so). 

Now is when you can decide whether to add the remaining ingredients into the food processor, or take the dry ingredients out and put them into a bowl, hand-stirring the rest. It’s easier clean-up this way, so proceed according to how much time you have.

Mix the dry ingredients from the food processor into 1/2 cup plain, nonfat greek yogurt (I use FAGE, it offers the best quality, flavor and protein content). Stir well.

Next add in 1/2 cup organic nondairy or cow’s milk (I use unsweetened almond milk, and in this recipe I used an unsweetened almond/coconut milk blend). 

Lastly add in 2 TBSP creamy almond butter and 1 TSP local honey and stir very well.

The very last step is to lightly sprinkle the top with super-herb cinnamon, and then serve and enjoy!

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Yoga: Keeping Healthy & Happy Joints

I am a self-professed “hypochondriac.” Anytime I get an ache or pain, something in my mind hypes it up so much that I begin to toss and turn in waves of “OH NO, HOW DID THIS HAPPEN!” and “WILL THIS PAIN FOREVER STAY?!” and “WILL I EVER AGAIN BE ABLE TO ______!?” This is not an ideal reaction. This only makes matters worse.

So, in the effort to “manifest miracles” (as Jennifer Pastiloff so wonderfully phrases it) I am going to start sending healing energy to the parts of me that develop aches or pain. I’m going to start saying to them, “It won’t be long now,” and bathe my body in gratitude for the work it does for me and whatever harm it may have encountered. 

I’m also going to continue to educate myself, and excitedly look forward to my 2013 YogaWorks education (the cream of the crop, and “Harvard” of Yoga schools, I’ve been told time and time again!) where I’ll learn true alignment, anatomy and proper postures. In the meantime, I found this article very helpful. Yoga Journal offers the most complete and spectacular wealth of knowledge, and I have read countless articles of theirs, so I urge you to go to their website. It’s essentially like the “Encyclopedia of Yoga.”

This is the article that I found to calm me down and educate me on how to avoid further inner knee pain:

http://blog.gaiam.com/blog/4-yoga-poses-mistakes-that-can-cause-knee-pain/

Gaiam is wonderful and I have had some questions answered simply by their descriptions of how to avoid knee pain in some of the most COMMON yoga poses! My knee is responding well to R.I.C.E. (rest, ice, compression, elevation) but I’m very active and work on my feet all day, so I know part of it is just being kind and compassionate with my aches and pains. 

Having a strong home practice is divine, but when aches or pains arise I oftentimes want to blame myself for something I didn’t fully understand…when the truth of the matter is the pain quite likely originated someplace off the mat! Either at work, on my bike, rock climbing, sleeping funny…our bodies are strong and yet sensitive, let’s be kind and patient with them, and most of all grateful for what beautiful machines they are.

Do you have any aches or pains that you find yourself being impatient with? Have you found any online database that seems to over solace or a wealth of knowledge?

Good morning sw…

Good morning sweet souls,

I rose today and enjoyed warm water with lemon, a gentle way to wake the body after a night’s rest. I simply wanted to wish everyone a glorious day and share a great image that crossed my path this morning (just in time for breakfast!). 

Perhaps a nutritious, green, summer smoothie will be the perfect start to your day? 

Namaste!

 

 

 

 

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Skin: Our Largest Organ

A while back I posted a little spiel on skincare, and this is a follow-up. I’ve always gravitated towards a more natural face, but I’ve only really delved into skincare in my early twenties. I have a short list of favorites and, in the quest to “simplify” I’ve begun using Avalon Organics. I have picked up their moisturizer, facial serum and eye creme (I was convinced to splurge on all three because of a coupon, sale price and discount…literally getting me about 75% off…). I’ve been using them for about two weeks now and I’ve never seen my skin look so happy, vibrant and clear. I always believed that putting an organic product on one’s skin is important because the skin absorbs everything placed on its surface, therefore ingesting whatever toxic chemicals are swimming around in the make-up or moisturizer. I just could never find an organic brand that didn’t make me break out! I’m using the Vitamin C line of Avalon Organics and I find that, for my 24-year old skin, it is an absolute match made in heaven. I’m using the oil-free moisturizer (don’t get me wrong, certain skin types FLOURISH when oil is used on the face, but I’m just not that person), the Vitamin C serum and the revitalizing eye creme. It’s the perfect routine, I’ve found, and my skin seems to be giving me the thumbs up.

Now, if any of y’all are interested in giving the Avalon Organics brand a go, I’ll begin by saying they’re much more affordable than a lot of other organic brands on the shelf. You can pick up their products at most Whole Foods Markets, and for the remainder of July and most of August there will be an active $4.00 off coupon for the product in the coupon book provided within every Whole Foods (yes, Whole Foods has coupons!!!). 

I’ve attached a photo of the three products I’m talking about, incase you want to pick them up, and while I’m at it I’ll say…that Lomi Lomi body oil in the background is amazeballs! I use it on my hands, torso and decollete every night! It smells like Hawaiian bliss and is manufactured in one of my “heaven on earth” locations: Carmel, California.

Happy happy skin, my lovely yogis!

 

Namaste, make this a beautiful day.

 

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Banishing Self-Deprecation

BANISHING SELF-DEPRECATION

 

I have something to say, and it’s urgent. Disclaimer: the plethora of capitalized words that will appear in this piece are not meant to indicate shouting!

Fact: You are PERFECT at being YOU. No one else in the UNIVERSE can be YOU. Ever! Being YOU is the one thing in the world you are perfect at being.

More facts: We are human beings. We are brilliantly alive. We exist in fragile bodies. While we are physically fragile in contrast to say, vehicles, disease or weapons, we are internally stronger than all of those combined. We have thoughts; we have emotions; we have energy and unique human nature flowing through us. We have collected wisdom through our experiences, our traumas, our triumphs, our mistakes and our achievements. We are STUNNING. We are alive on this earth for a short and sweet instant in relation to how long mother earth has existed. We are capable of EXQUISITE accomplishments, change and radical thought. We walk amongst geniuses, healers, creators, teachers. We are all divinely UNIQUE; no two of us are the same.

Fact: As human beings we are adept at being self-deprecating creatures.

How we look…how we behave…how much money we make…what we eat…what we say…what we think…what we own…what we want…

Is there any human being on the planet harder on you than you are?

I want to devise a little equation to help negate the self-deprecating talk inside our heads. Unfortunately it’s not just us…we are fighting off unconscious messages from the media, societal expectations and economic insecurity.

Let’s not expect to thwart all these demons at once and instead begin with the only thing we actually have power over: ourselves.

This is my equation:

▪                Do What You Love. Perfection is unattainable, flaws are part of being human, and we ought to embrace them instead of trying to erase them. All work and no play makes for a dull life, where as all play and no work makes for an unsatisfying existence. As human beings we prosper and thrive when we create something. Whether you’re an artist or a lawyer, do what you love regardless of title or glamour. Just chase YOUR bliss.

▪                Honor YOUR beautiful body. As human beings our physical bodies are SO vastly different, and it’s a beautiful thing…yet what do we try to do? For the most part we try to all look one way. I can’t speak for men, but from my perspective as a woman it seems to sound something like, “be thin, but also have curves; don’t have cellulite, wear a small jeans size and have a low weight, but also but have muscle tone and definition…Oh – and don’t get ‘fat’ while you’re pregnant.” It’s absurd. I see bodies all day long that are beautiful in such DIFFERENT ways. I’m done trying to make mine look like anyone else’s. I admit I’m impressionable and, just as much as any other girl, have spent time wanting to look “perfect.” What I now realize is how I look IS perfect because no one ELSE looks this way – therefore it’s perfect in that it’s the ONLY body out there like mine! The same goes for you. No one else looks like YOU. Celebrate your uniqueness. What better way to spend our time than loving and celebrating our own natural state?

▪                Find physical activity that makes your body feel blissful and DO it, OFTEN. I choose yoga, and naturally want to recommend it to the world, but if it’s walking for you, do it (it’s walking for me too, in addition to yoga, I love walking and hiking in nature and blissfully zoning OUT!). If it’s tennis, do it. If it’s dance, then dance your little heart out. Human bodies were designed to be exercised and, contrary to popular belief, that is not so we can be “bikini ready.” Our bodies need exercise so we can have healthy metabolisms, digestion, muscles, ligaments, hearts, organs, lungs, circulation and minds. Our bodies suffer without physical activity. So find what makes your heart beat, your muscles stretch, and your mind serene, and do it often. Don’t force yourself into someone else’s activities, find what makes YOU feel blissful. By using our bodies as they’re meant to be used, we become far more inclined to want to treat them, viewing them with respect and admiration.

▪                Use food as fuel. Food takes on a myriad of roles in our lives as human beings. We are mammals. We must eat to live, and we ought to choose sustaining and nourishing fuel for our bodies. We also have the capacity to cook and create glorious and gourmet dishes, though, which other mammals (not unbeknownst to them, cue your sweet puppy sitting beside the dinner table begging for a bite!) do not have. Food brings family together, it varies significantly from culture to culture. It often times represents a heck of a lot more than “fuel.” It is therefore our responsibility to honor our own likes and dislikes, while still maintaining and healthy and happy human vessel. I urge you to eat what you want to eat in a balanced manner. Life is short and if you adore chocolate or steak you ought not deprive yourself. You also ought not gorge yourself on an imbalanced amount of what you love. Just be true to yourself and treat your body with care.

▪                Write in a Journal. I mean it. Whether it’s a physical journal or a word document (I’m supremely partial to a beautiful, lined, tangible journal) write in a journal frequently. Use a pen you love. Maybe even create a special space or time of day to write down what you are thinking, what you’re grateful for, or the embarrassingly awful things you can’t bring yourself to speak out loud. Journaling is a powerful tool in the quest to remaining true to oneself. Writing down how you feel during sadness, happiness, confusion, elation and even the most uneventful lapses of time allows you to better get to know yourself. Documenting moments of clarity is imperative. We want to have the ability to recall our own wisdom and relive it, and journaling allows us to be accountable for how emotionally, physically and intellectually complex we are as human beings.

 

Naturally these are just five suggestions, but I feel they are a good start to throwing a monkey wrench in the churning gears of self-deprecation. Use positive affirmations, as brilliant Yogini and Mind-Body Therapist Ashley Turner so frequently suggests, to return us to that feeling of self-love. If your affirmations are failing you (which, if thoughtfully devised by the amazingly unique YOU, I sincerely doubt they will) then you can always fall back on this good ‘ol quote by Dr. Seuss:

 

“Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.”