yoga. harming before healing.
I have struggled with varying manifestations of disordered eating; anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating, orthorexia, exercise addictions and more… all of these behaviours stemmed from my hatred towards my body.
The hatred I had for my body was what initially drew me to the yogic promises of purification. My hatred told me that my body was dirty, wrong, imperfect and needing alteration. My desire for perfection and purification resulted in years of intense physical practice, cleanses, detoxification, fasting, colonics and any other type of lifestyle change that would leave me more pure, more light, more whole…
The embodiment of yoga culture led me my worst state of health.
I spent years hearing the voice of an eating disorder when I stepped on the mat and met my eyes gaze in themirror. Staring at myself through the lens of shame became an obsession. For seeing myself as not pure fed the voice and gave the voice the ammunition I needed to continue exercising, starving, ‘fasting’, purging, cleansing and punishing my body for being too much of something.
Standing in front of my reflection with this mental dialogue occurring, is why I continued to go to sweaty, sticky, and smelly Bikraham. And I know that I am not the only yogi who has gone to a yoga class with less then perfection intentions…
Despite my struggle being undeniably obvious, no one in the yoga community reached out to me. No one questioned my behaviours. No one said you’ve been on a juice cleanse since I’ve met you. No one stopped me from going to my third hot vinyasa class. No one challenged me.
Instead I was celebrated. I was congratulated for being so committed to a lifestyle that was killing me.
My yoga practice was apart of my disordered eating habits.
It was on my yoga mat where I purged last nights dinner.
It was on my yoga mat where I punished myself for eating three meals.
It was on my yoga mat where I developed orthorexia.
It was on my yoga mat where I let my exercise addiction reach new extremes.
It was on my yoga mat where I fainted from an electrolyte balance.
It was on my yoga mat where my heart stopped.
It was on my yoga mat where I slowly, steadily surrendered to the secrets suffocated in my skin that could only surface during svasana. Secrets that needed to be shed and shared to live my life with a pure authentic and whole heart.
As harmful as my yoga mat was… it was the safest place for me to be.
I ran to my yoga mat when I felt that there was nowhere else in the world for me.
I ran to my yoga mat when I felt the desire to leave the world.
I ran. I fled. I found myself in yoga classes and felt what I could. And on my path, for a long time all I could feel was hatred towards my body. A hatred that forced me to torture my body through sun salutations over many moons. Feeling this hatred crafted my dedicated practice.
A practice that ultimately did lead me to question why I hated this body? A body that allowed me to do so much? A body that allowed me to practice so fiercely?A body I almost lost?
My hatred made me question. My hatred challenged me. My hatred changed me.
Very slowly, yoga challenged and changed my way of being. My practice shifted to curiosity, connection, and not caloric burn.
The misuse of yoga was a part of my path. It informs how I live life on and off my mat.
By stepping on to my mat and into my hatred for so many years, I learned how to bring love to hatred. Bring light to darkness.
This article is exactly that the embodiment of bringing light to the dark side of our yoga culture. A culture that can be the perfect place to hide an eating disorder under the guise of ‘purity’.
This does not mean we need to call out and question every long limbed, skeleton looking ashtanga yogi we vinyasa beside but it does mean that we need to use the same awareness we have of our breath on and off the mat.
So when we see someone in a yoga class, someone we suspect is intoxicated with the quest of purity, someone so obviously struggling… We be honest with ourselves about our own darkness and offer our light.
That we do what I wish someone had done for me.
That we meet them as a whole, human, light with dark and trust that the yoga works.
Because it really, truly, and fully does when we honour both light and dark.