Suffering with an eating disorder means that you are disconnected from your body. This most severe mental health issue takes over your mind and, in doing so, it denies the needs of your body or a persons ability to answer to them. The innate messages of hunger, fullness, exhaustion, fear, pleasure, everything, really, become dulled and eventually silenced. This overtaking of the mind, ignoring of the body, is what perpetuates the power of the eating disorder.
When you’re hungry, you don’t eat.
When you’re full, you can’t stop.
When you’re tired, you push harder.
When you’re hurt, you avoid it.
When you’re caught, you lie about it.
Overtime, the body learns that you do not listen to its needs (it’s hungry, but you won’t feed it). It will either stop asking for its needs to be met (won’t send hunger cues) OR it becomes so manipulated by the mind of the eating disorder, that it learns how only to communicate the eating disorders needs (body believes it’s not hungry because the eating disorder says not to eat). This makes it impossible for a person suffering to reconcile what’s even real.
In recovery, there are many facets of healing that are required for a person to live freely and without an eating disorder. One of those pieces is learning how to connect with, your body.
When I was 19 years old, I was incapacitated by the power of the eating disorder. I was overtaken by it. I had become a fraction of myself and my ability to function was deteriorating. My older brother took me to a yoga class at a studio in Toronto that he had regularly frequented. I was weak and I was angry for having to be out in the world and seen, but I felt supported by him and so I appeased his request to go along. I remember walking into the studio, taking off my shoes, heading up the stairs to the practice space. The place was busy and the energy was high, music was playing, people were connecting, and though I felt overwhelmed and exposed, I was intrigued. I had never really been in a space like this before. A calming came over me. Having spent the past many months prior in a haze under the guise of my eating disorder rituals, I forgot what it meant to be in the world. And it “helped” that I had developed an over-exercise addiction as part of my eating disorder rules and so I was comfortable to have been dragged out to “exercise”. Little did I know that the power of yoga was so much deeper than this.
I have since, for the last 20 years, practiced yoga in my life. It is one of the biggest parts of who am I; how I identify, how I move through things in my life, how I connect to myself.
There are so many parts of a person that require focused intervention and healing from an eating disorder (practicing yoga will not, in isolation, resolve all these places of repair by any means) but, for me, it has been a powerful place of relearning how to tap in deeper to myself and how to hear and respond to the messages and needs of my body. I find serenity on my mat which has allowed me to find serenity in my body. There’s a sense of focus and connection to breathing with movement that facilitates clarity, the ability to quiet my mind and focus inward. My years of practice with yoga (and why it has been do profoundly affecting in terms of my recovery), is that it has taught me about how to get out of my head, into my body; how to listen in more deeply – which really is the opposite of how you live when you have an eating disorder.
At The Kyla Fox Centre, yoga is offered as a part of our clients recovery – we believe strongly in facilitating repair in their relationship to their body and this is one of the many ways we do this.
I will forever be grateful that I said “yes” to my brother in those dark days of my life. For he provided me with a gift of connection that I believed has allowed me to live without an eating disorder.