When people ask me why I practice yoga, I generally say something like; it makes me feel strong, it calms my mind or it makes me feel connected to a larger community.
While all of these things are undoubtedly true, I hesitate to share what really keeps me returning to my mat.
Because at the end of the day, the shame of an eating-disordered history still haunts me. It haunts me so much that I can’t utter the simple phrase: “Yoga gets me back in my body.”
After over a decade-long battle with a spectrum of eating disorders, I felt uncomfortable in my own skin—more accurately, I refused to be in my own skin.
The thought of my body only led to feelings of disgust. I only cared about my body in so far as I could control and attempt to separate myself from it.
Sure, I went to the gym every day, but I cranked out miles on the treadmill or elliptical machine in the most mindless way possible. I approached my trip to the gym as that hour or two a day I needed to burn off excess (or what I perceived to be excess) calories.
Truth be told, when I started practicing yoga in 2007, I approached it with the same attitude. Yoga was just another way to control my weight.
But yoga wasn’t the same as a trip to the gym. Every time I went to a yoga class, I left uttering the same phrase: “I just feel so good.” It took me years to figure out what that good was. More precisely, it took me five years of an inconsistent practice, and the decision to commit to a regular practice in 2012 to figure out what the good was.
When I moved to Pittsburgh in 2012, I was immediately shocked by the number of yoga studios in my neighborhood and decided to give yoga another try. This time around, something clicked.
While I first fell in love with the physically demanding elements of power yoga, I started to become curious about the philosophical aspects of yoga (the other seven limbs) as well.
This inquiry extended to my personal practice—and to my body.
I wanted to learn more and I found that this desire to learn led me to self-study. I found that in order to understand a pose, I needed to actually touch my body and feel my muscles working. My yoga practice helped me to interact with my body in ways I’d never experienced.
Yoga gives me a judgment-free space to experience my body. Instead of thinking about what my body looks like when I’m doing yoga, I’m thinking about what it can do.
Learning more about each pose made me aware of what I need to do, and what it feels like, to make that pose happen in my body. As I externally rotate my front leg and come into Warrior II, for example, I take my mind out of how I look in my Lululemons and into how my body feels when I practice.
Yoga is my moving meditation that allows me to feel my muscles, my bones, my skin and my energy.
My off-the-mat practice also continues to grow every day, but I don’t think I ever would’ve developed it without the physical dimensions of yoga. I needed a way to first re-unite my mind and body.
I have a long list of reasons for practicing yoga, but that’s one that always stands out. After years of trying to (literally) run from my body, yoga brought me back.
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