When I was eleven years old, I was hospitalized for three years with anorexia nervosa. How was it possible that at this age, I was so scared of becoming fat, of not being good enough, of seeing my body as imperfect?
I gradually became less and less comfortable in my body. I remember thinking I was ugly, fat, and that nobody would ever pay attention to me. Experiencing weight loss did not, however, affirm my conviction that becoming thin would lead to happiness.
Despite being discharged from hospital, the negative thoughts I had about my body never really subsided, and every day was a battle against the destructive and distorted perceptions I had of my physical self.
The Bigger Picture
Our society places so much value on thinness, and it teaches women that physical appearance is of the utmost importance. Women then place tremendous significance on their appearance, impacting the relationship they have with their bodies. When we do not meet the expectations presented to us, we feel inadequate.
I know that I felt like if I were not thin or beautiful enough, I would not be given attention, have a lot of friends, or feel accepted. This took a toll on my psychological wellbeing as my self-esteem and self-image was negatively impacted. Eating, or controlling my eating, thus became my way of managing the psychological distress I was experiencing.
As you can imagine this lead me to feel more disconnected to my body than ever.
Then Came Yoga
While still struggling through my eating disorder recovery, this is where yoga came into play. It wasn’t until my first year of university that I found my way to a hot yoga studio near my school. I loved it almost instantly and developed a regular yoga practice.
At first I fell in love with the physical asana of yoga, how it challenged my body in a way that would help me to reach my ‘ideal body.’ As disordered eating defined me for such a long time, my life revolved around patterns, rules, and my agenda. What I eventually began to learn and appreciate were the openings I experienced, not only physically but also emotionally, mentally and spiritually.
I was able to let go of rules, patterns and my agenda. Space opened for spontaneity and there became opportunity for intuition. I had become profoundly disconnected from my body, but in finding yoga, this level of awareness became life changing.
As my practice grew further, I developed a better sense of how yoga fits in with my eating disorder recovery and body acceptance—as my only intention is to adjust my practice to what I need on that day, in that practice, and at that moment. Disordered eating is like a war against the body, and for me the practice of yoga played a role in reviving it.
I am able to listen to and respect my body, have confidence in myself, and feel empowered. Now, when I practice, I feel profoundly grateful; grateful for my recovery, grateful for my yoga practice, and grateful for my body.
Yoga And Body Image
Body image is the way we perceive our bodies, the way we feel about our bodies, and the way we think about our bodies. Through the practice of yoga, we are made aware of our bodies, their abilities, and we can change our perceptions of them.
We bring our mind and body into the present moment and practice with intention and awareness. When we are aware of our destructive motivations or intentions to practice, we are better able to shift them into a more positive space. This is not always easy to do, but with regular practice, you are better able to appreciate your body for what it can do, and what it cannot do, each day you hit the mat.
by Lauren Hurst - Lauren is an adventure-seeker, world-travelling charismatic yogi with a desire to inspire others to fall in love with their bodies through the practice of yoga. She is also a Registered Social Worker and Certified Yoga Teacher. She is from London, Ontario, Canada and is currently working and travelling in New Zealand and Australia. You can connect with her on Facebook or email her at [email protected]
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