As the steam rises I leave the remnants of a broken girl in my mind. I myself am not broken. I myself am not bruised.
Writing my first article for this website was like taking a butter knife and scraping it along my bones. It brought up a lot of memories. It hurt to know I spent so many years not only in pain, but unable to confront the source of that pain. I wept while writing it, not because I felt the pain again but because I felt so bad empathically, as if that girl I was writing about wasn’t me. I’m so far removed from that type of mentality it can sometimes be hard to reconcile her with me. But I have to, because of course we are the same.
One of my teachers at my studio said, “In order to know your spiritual path, you need to kick up your shit.”
I’ve kicked up enough shit for three people. Three people are within me. The obese girl. The anorexic girl. The girl I am now, strong.
When I was obese in my physical body, I trained my mental body instead. I spent a lot of time writing, either creatively or in journals. I wondered about the world. I read a lot of books. I became highly involved in politics. That period of my life was when I kept to myself and learned as much as I could. It is because of that accumulation of knowledge that I have my current life.
When I was 128 pounds my mental body went into yearlong atrophy; the only thing it could process was the math of caloric input and caloric burn. I ended up with weak and bony flesh that had no strength, and I felt brittle, flat, diminished, unsettled, unfeminine, anxious, flighty, freezing, panicked and unsexed. I didn’t enjoy food. I didn’t enjoy anything.
I love that 128-pound girl for her endurance. I love that girl for her frailty. I love her for the day she walked into her first Vinyasa Flow class and realized she didn’t want to feel weak anymore, after watching beautifully luscious yogis and wishing she were like them. I don’t really have the body type to be truly luscious, but I feel a lusciousness in my soul now.
Finding that balance between those two extremes is the line I walk. I love to exercise, to go to the gym, to feel sweat pouring off my face. Being active is something I thank my former obesity for every day…exercise inspires me to be focused and energized in my day.
I also love to sit still and cultivate absolute satisfaction within myself, which is where my yoga comes in. I prefer strong, slow, long and deep classes that inspire patience and calm within difficulty.
My ayurvedic doshas are simultaneously vata and pitta, hot and cold, fire and wind. I navigate both.
I have learned to look at my past and its pain and to observe my present and the emotions I now confront instead of shun. I must always choose hope. I will always choose hope.
It’s four in the afternoon. I’m doing a solitary 90-minute Seane Corn Body Prayer class. I’m holding lizard pose. I’m a runner and I hate this pose. I hate all the emotions it’s pulling out of my hips. I hold on as long as I can, until the discomfort turns into genuine pain. I held on too long. My leg is too pushed out. My hip is too tight. My ujayi, or victorious yogic breath that powers vinyasa practice, gets really, really loud and eventually turns into something akin to a howl. At one point, Seane says, “You’ll start thinking negative things,” right when I start mentally hurling F-bombs at her beautiful head.
I should stop. It’s starting to hold me rather than me holding it. The voices come alive. They tell me that if I give up on this, I give up in my life. I can’t give up. Will not give up. If I fail, then the world will end. Isn’t that what yoga is? To keep going? To be non-reactive? If I drop the pose I’ll be reacting to it. Ow.
I can’t take it. I collapse out of the pose for a moment, sighing with relief. But then I jump back up and get back into the pose. I feel failure, but then something different. I feel the choice to stop for my own well-being. I feel the choice to walk away from my practice when my practice stops healing and starts hurting. And, perhaps most importantly, I feel the choice I made to get back up, even when I fell down.
Those voices are the remnants of a broken girl, wanting to be loved. Believing she was weak. Believing she wasn’t enough.
I hear the voices, I confront them, and I know that I am strong. I hear the voices and know that they do not define me. I hear the voices and know I am loved beyond imagining. And then I choose to walk the path of hope. Hope, for me, is the infinite path to healing.
At the end of the practice I get up and take a shower. As the steam rises I leave the voices in my mind. I do not leave them battered or broken or bruised because I myself am not broken. I myself am not bruised. I clean them as I clean my body in the hot water. I clean my soul.
I walk through Shiva’s fire every single day, and I choose rebirth. I choose genesis, and a lifetime of beginnings. Om. Namah. Shivaya.
Alysa Auriemma is a writer, teacher, friend, lover/fighter, daughter and auntie. She practices Pranakriya and Baptiste Vinyasa yoga with elephant contributor Anne Falkowski and hopes to one day use her yoga as a tool beyond physical practice to help others recover and heal from body dysmorphia and eating disorders. Follow her attempts to make sense of society, politics, films and Snooki at http://www.theculturebarista.blogspot.com.
Editor: Jayleigh Lewis