Hello fellow yogis. I have been thinking about how I should word this, how I should write this, and what the hell I wanted to say. I first thought about apologizing for not being a perfect yoga instructor or human being for that matter. I thought about apologizing for not leading by example, and for telling you to do things that I couldn’t do myself, but I can’t. I can’t apologize for something that I did not do. I say this because I so desperately wanted to do what I was telling ya’ll to do. I set my intention every day to have a “good” day, and then I would fail because Lauren would leave and ED would enter. It was like I temporarily left my body and had some monstor air BnB it for a few hours. I would then come back and see what a mess my tenant had made of things. Then I would have to drag my run down home to a shiny place and try to make it look presentable, the whole time falling apart both physically and mentally with guilt and shame. You see, I was coping with life in a maladaptive way; by both restricting my food and binging and purging.
I tried to heal myself through yoga. I started practicing yoga in college, and things did start to improve. I started to find mindfulness, and I started to slowly lessen in behaviors, but ED didn’t like being ignored. My ED started to change shapes and I started calorie counting and restricting, and before I knew it, I was back in the grips of ED. I thought, “Maybe I’ll get certified in yoga. That will fix me. I can’t possibly be a yoga teacher with an eating disorder because they don’t exist; once I get certified, I’ll get better” News flash—that’s not at all how it works. It probably made things worse because that was another aspect of my life I had to hide. And as I said before, I felt like the biggest hypocrite in the world because I was preaching body love and self-awareness and self-acceptance, and I couldn’t do any of it. The ED would just get louder and more insistent. “You’re a yoga teacher, you cannot get fat, and if you let go of me, you will be. No one will take you seriously if you don’t look like a ‘skinny yogi’” This is of course, a lie. There is no prerequisite to being a yoga teacher, and I would never want someone who might not be featured in Yoga Journal to feel like she wasn’t worthy of being in a class; but I felt this way all the time. Isn’t it ironic that ED could turn around the one thing that would save me and make it stressful for me? Mental disorders are tricky bitches.
So I suffered in silence, I taught by lying, and I existed in a shell of myself for years. I went to a master class taught by a well-known and inspiring yoga teacher who had a big influence in the development of Power yoga (the style I teach.) In this master class he told us to own our imperfections, unless those included eating disorders, and to “Not bring that shit in here.” He was a very nice person, and I do not think that he meant any harm, but harm he caused me. That hit me like a ton of bricks, and ED played that teacher’s words back at me every time I thought about getting help or confiding in someone. I was so ashamed, that when I went to treatment I didn’t even tell the yoga studio where I was going or what I was doing. I got my classes subbed and kept my head down. That is, until recently.
It’s enough already. To say that yoga teachers aren’t allowed to struggle with eating issues is like saying yoga instructors aren’t allowed to get injuries because we stretch so much. The brain is an organ just like any other in the body. If I developed cancer in my kidneys, would that mean that I couldn’t be a yoga teacher? No, you’d say that’s silly. How is an ED any different?
The main reason I wanted to write this is to let you know that you are not alone. If you practice yoga every day, but still struggle with destructive-behaviors, that is ok. You are worthy of help. You are allowed to struggle. You’re even allowed to struggle tonight and wake up tomorrow and practice yoga and know that you are not a hypocrite. You are human. I am human. Your instructors are just like you. Please don’t put us up on pedestals because we do make mistakes. We’re all growing. Together. If you feel like you need someone to talk to that’s been there (and still struggles with her identity outside of this), please reach out to me. I had wonderful people who helped me, and I am better for it.
Love, Light, and Namaste
I’m sitting in a coffee shop. I just ordered a black iced coffee. That’s my summertime go-to; it used to be an iced chai tea latte, but heaven forbid I consume more calories, so for now, it’s an iced black coffee with a splash of cream. I’m sitting in this coffee shop, not because I really had a hankering for a good cup of joe, but because I can’t trust myself in my house right now. The urge to engage in behaviors is overwhelming. I just ate lunch and I’m crawling out of my skin. I haven’t worked out today, and exercise eases my stress, so I’m super-antsy. I don’t even want to drink this coffee because it’s making me more full, but it’s good and I want it, so there’s an internal conflict going on. I’m frustrated. I feel stuck. I am making steps in the right direction, but with every three steps forward there is one step back, so i took my ass to a coffee shop and am giving myself a pep-talk. “Bitch, you better keep that lunch down.” In treatment after every meal we would do “food and feelings”-
This meal was to my taste preference. It was challenging due to body sensations, events of the day, and environment. I am feeling urgey (a word made up in treatment) uncomfortable, antsy, anxious, and repugnant. After this I will be on my computer and I might need staff support.
If only I had staff support here. The trouble with me is that I am VERY uncomfortable asking for help. Showing my vulnerability in the moment is like plucking each toenail off my foot, so sometimes I opt for behavior instead because it’s easier. I had really hoped to be further along by now. I feel like I’m failing. It’s too hard and sometimes I feel like I can’t do it, which I know is not true, but its hard and I don’t always want to work. Can you imagine fighting against something you literally need to survive? I’m sure some of you reading this can, and others are like, “bitch you be crazy!” Well, that is also accurate. Every time my stomach growls I have a plethora of emotions. I get pissed because I have to eat, excited because I get to eat, nervous because I know I’ll be urgey, scared because I might mess up, and distrustful because I’m fucking stressed out. A human body reaction literally strikes fear in me. That pisses me off. It’s like, "I have to pee, omg, that’s the worst thing that could possibly happen to me!” Well, I guess it is for someone with a UTI, so Im walking around with the hunger equivalent of a UTI that perpetually stays with me.
This is not a new fear, and that’s why its so embedded in me. I didn’t always purge, but I always got anxious. I remember as an 8 year old comparing my body to some of my friends and thinking it was too fat. I remember as a teen ager going to the library for lunch so that I didn’t have to eat and hoping no one would notice. I remember my parents leaving me alone and sneaking off to Wal Mart to buy diet pills that don’t work. I remember lying to my mom and telling her that I had a stomach ache so that she wouldn’t make me eat dinner. I used that excuse so much that she took me to the doctor because she was concerned. I remember not being able to go to school because I took 25 Laxatives and telling my mom that I had a stomach bug. Sometimes I would go to school anyway and have to make many trips to the bathroom.- And just on a side note, laxatives suck. I kicked that habit pretty quickly because not only is it gross, it hurts! The constant stomach cramping and raw butt hole from the violent shits are intense. (sorry for the visual, but the the truth is messy…)
All I can do is take one step at a time. If I get triggered, that trigger belongs to me. I am the one who needs to make an adjustment. Sometimes I can make the right move like leaving my house and going to a coffee shop; sometimes I succumb to the urges that often times don’t seem rational (because they’re not.) All that I can do is try to do the next right thing. I might mess up occasionally for a while, but that does not mean the whole day is a wash. It’s a human tendency to think that way. But the ED likes to take control of that “black and white” thinking. That’s also something I try to be aware of.