The first time I binged was during my Kripalu Yoga Teacher Training.
I was barely able to afford teacher training and couldn’t comprehend how I could leave my two kids for so long. I went anyway. I showed up with excitement and guilt.
It was a dream three weeks of yoga, dance and meditation. I gave up coffee and meat, hiked daily in the Berkshire Mountains and, for the first time ever, found my tribe. My body became the instrument of a goddess. It could twist, fold, bend and turn upside down. My arms and legs were toned. My belly, butt and abs were tight and firm. My mind appeared clear and my heart was wide open. Love for each and every being leaked out of me into the cumin and chai scented walls.
Spending too much money on clothes was not new. But it was something I hadn’t done since before I became an uber-responsible adult complete with partner, mortgage and children. I was in my early 30s and had been a grown-up for a while. I knew how to exercise self-control.
But each day in training, as yoga took a deeper hold, I found myself drawn to the Kripalu Shop. Inside was a universe of red glimmer, Shiva bronze and sadhu orange. In the warm cocoon which smelled of newness, I discovered a whole new world of beautiful things I never knew I needed.
I would slip into the dressing room with armfuls of expensive yoga clothing. Much different from the clothing in my TJ Maxx and Marshalls budget. I rationalized a $60 tee shirt was necessary for the yoga teacher I was about to be. I told myself I deserved $95 pants since my curvy body required extra coverage. I listened to CD after CD and decided a committed yoga teacher would invest $300 in Wah!, Krisna Das and Deva Premal. How could I not bring my future students the words of Rumi, Mary Oliver, Lalla, and Hafiz? Into the bag went the sacred music and poetry.
Isn’t this all a tax write-off? Okay, maybe not the Mala beads and the sterling silver OM toe ring. My mind numbed. I still threw it all in.
On the last day of teacher training, 40 yoga students, myself included, dressed in white, practiced yoga together for the final time. A live flute played in the background. I cried in shivasana, wiped away my tears with the back of my hand, and hugged everyone good-bye. I didn’t want to leave but knew it was time to get back to my real world of housework, toddlers and bills.
As I toted my suitcase down to the lobby, I had one last stop to make—The Kripalu Shop. During each session of yoga, I thought more and more about the colorful shirts, hip-hugging pants and gauzy scarves which were soon to be mine. As I stretched my arms up to the ceiling or bowed my head forward between my knees, I pushed the thoughts away.
In a few minutes, the desire re-emerged. I salivated imagining how glorious it will be to own all the items I had privately stocked up in a bag. Well not so private. The girls behind the register knew of my pilgrimage. They put all the chosen lovelies into a bag with my name on it. Behind the counter, there were other bags with other names. I was not alone and my bag was not the biggest, affirming I was under control.
The girls behind the counter were pretty, bangled and smelled like patchouli princesses. I felt understood by these girls, some who didn’t seem old enough to live away from home. They even knew how to spell my name—Anne with an “e.”
The girl behind the register said, “Today is the last day.”
“I know. I can’t believe my teacher training is ending….” I made small talk but really I was thinking, “Hurry Up. What’s the damage? I need to see the damage. Oh Please Dear Yoga God, Don’t Let It Be Too High.”
My hands shook. The first time someone asked me to put a tab of acid under my tongue, I was 15. It took almost an hour for the trip to begin. In those 60 minutes of uncertainty, I tingled with excitement and fear. When the acid did take effect, sleep left my body for two days. Never again I told myself.
But this was yoga, and this was legal and the stuff made me look and feel beautiful. It filled a hole of unworthiness. With these yoga goodies, I was special. Somewhere deep inside a door had unhinged and intuitively I knew I was getting high.
I was convinced shit would hit the fan when I got home and explained to Matt why I spent half a mortgage payment on yoga clothing. I was ready to beg forgiveness, swear to never ever buy anything again or cut off my arms. Whatever it took to make up for the guilt and out of control behavior.
” You spent what? Are you kidding me?” he said with a WTF look on his face. “You’re lucky I missed you while you were gone, ” and kissed me on the forehead. “Don’t do it again.”
I couldn’t believe my luck. I had gotten away with it.
But the truth was I learned a great deal from my partner’s response. He didn’t put a lot of drama into the whole deal. I had overspent. Not cool. But not the end of the world.
Recently, a yoga teacher told me storms are part of life. I can see now that I had held back spending any money on myself for a long time prior to teacher training and deep down felt I didn’t deserve to. My core belief was that I wasn’t worthy. I wasn’t rich, smart, thin, beautiful, or good enough and I never would be. No matter how hard I tried.
But little by little, during the yoga teacher training, a new perspective of me began to emerge. A view point that affirmed goodness and wholeness. I was enough. Sacred, brilliant, and beautiful. I just forgot. I resonated with Derek Wolcott’s, “You will love again the stranger who was your self. Sit. Feast on your life.” And isn’t it nature’s way to break a famine with a feast?
The other thing about doing lots of yoga is that it opens you. Yoga raises our energy, sometimes to uncomfortable states.
When experiencing deeper states of yoga, our beliefs of who we are, and what we deserve and don’t deserve, shift and change. The high energetic state coupled with the disturbance in our self-identity create a state of temporary instability. We become vulnerable. Our physical and emotional bodies want to shut back down, making the high energy or changes less scary. Shopping, drinking, drugs, food, sex and even yelling at our loved ones are all ways that some of us unknowingly choose to get back to normal.
I still go to Kripalu once a year. At first I told myself the store was off-limits. I used to say the Kripalu shop was evil. But over time, I realized it was just a store filled with pretty and desirable things. Instead of banning the place, I now set myself a budget. I will purposely not enter the store immediately following yoga because I recognize I don’t want to dump my high energetic state on shopping. (And keep some money in my bank account).
Eventually, as my energetic state returns back to equilibrium, I do find my way to the shop. As I try on a have-to-have dress or run my fingers over shiny jewelry, I remind myself I am worthy but I am also enough. Expensive and beautiful things do not define the quality of my life.
Life is sometimes a famine, a feast or neither.
Sometimes it is the purposeful striking of balance that keeps us moving ahead to fully experience all the world has to offer. Sometimes staying balanced keeps us back. Whatever choice we make needs to be mixed with discernment and compassion. Judgment and shame only serve to reinforce that we are not worthy.
Ana Forrest has an interesting method for making choices with discernment. She advises that each time we are faced with a choice, whether it’s a chocolate donut, a relationship or a new pair of yoga pants, we should ask ourselves, “Does this choice align with who I want to be? Does this brighten my spirit or clutter it?” Therein lies the answer.
Now if I could only remind myself of these words at Lululemon.
Ed: Kate B.