Yoga and eating disorders
How yoga can help in multiple ways when battling an eating disorder. By Katy Burr
During my 20s I developed an eating disorder, specifically Anorexia Nervosa. I would do intense workouts and starve myself, to the point where I would pass out and be physically and mentally exhausted. It took a huge toll on me physically and mentally, where I was malnourished, exhausted, and developed osteopenia, which affects your bone density.
After several years of battling this illness, acceptance appeared. I accepted I had a problem and I wanted to fight to get my life back again. I tried to find ways to heal what was broken, I attended therapy, did self-help courses and exercises, books and to my shock, I practiced yoga every day.
I remember the first class I had: I hated the silence and poses like savasana – corpse pose. Listening to my thoughts running wild, thinking about food, wondering what my next snack would be and how I can work it off. What surprised me during the session was that yoga made me listen to my body, something I had not done in many years; it was like my body was screaming at me to listen. It was as though I had been putting the noise on mute.
After many attempts, speaking to several teachers, discovering different classes and different types of yoga, eventually, over time it slowly began to calm my mind and gave me the smallest amount of peace. The truth is, yoga was an eye opener.
With Anorexia Nervosa, I was not aware of what I was doing to my body for a long time. I had a lack of awareness. Yoga made me aware of my surroundings, my body, and my breath. I became mindful of my body and what it desired from me.
I was forced to listen to my body, which made me very uncomfortable at first, but with time and perseverance I was slowly able to find peace, and I cannot put into words how that felt. After years of what now feels like punishing myself, my body and not feeling good enough, it felt like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders.
To this day, yoga makes me feel peaceful and connected with myself, which is something I have not felt in many years. It helped me physically and mentally in recovery, it helped me rebuild the strength and bone density that was lost throughout my anorexia. When things seem to get overwhelming and too much, I roll my mat out, place my feet on it, and let go.
Now when I'm on the mat the past does not exist, my illness is not present, there are no worries about the future. It is just me, the mat, and my yoga practice. Yoga makes me see what my body is capable of, the movements and poses it can hold. It makes me aware of my breathing, which I had never been aware of previously; once I became more aware of my breathing, it helped me when I would feel anxious or stressed, and helped me deal with my panic attacks due to my eating disorder.
Yoga makes me feel more energised and happier, which I did not feel for a long time. I was miserable and saw no light at the end of the tunnel. Yoga became light, my hope. I am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason and although I am not the same person I once was, I believe that I am stronger and better for it, and yoga is now a huge part of my life because of it.
Organisations and charities such as Beat Eating Disorders and Talk ED provide support for anyone affected by eating disorders. Find more information at nhs.uk.
I love yoga, it is they thing that brings me peace and happiness and it has helped me with through my mental health. I begun writing a while back to help me through some difficult periods and writing about yoga seems to bring me a sense of purpose.