I did not start doing yoga because it is trendy.
I did not start doing yoga because of Kate Hudson’s new Fabletics line, or because I wanted to bombard my friends on social media with pictures of myself defying gravity in a tiny sport’s bra and yoga pants.
I started doing yoga for me.
I was first exposed to yoga during the summer of 2010, when I was in an outpatient rehabilitation program for an eating disorder.
Part of my treatment program included participating in an hour-long yoga practice twice a week. This was the first time in my life I was shown an outlet that allowed me to use my mind, body weight and strength in a positive and healthy way.
While I enjoyed the practice, I do not think my 18-year-old self was fully open to the power yoga would one day have in all aspects of my life. I completed over two months of treatment just in time to leave for college at the conclusion of that summer. I was fortunate enough to have been provided with the nutritional education, intensive therapy and coping skills to sustain a healthy body image throughout my first few years of college.
However, by the end of the summer going into the start of my senior year, the emotional stress caused by the many uncertainties I had about my post-graduation future began to take a toll on my mental health.
My relapse was gradual.
Over time, my clothes became looser, my meals more sporadic, and trips to the bathroom more frequent.
I did not even know what was happening until I found myself unable to even get out of bed in the morning to go to class. My roommates, at the time, started to peak into my room some mornings to make sure I was still breathing after they could hear me puking up the previous night’s dinner. I no longer enjoyed living. I withdrew from my classes and quit my part-time job. I spent some afternoons hoping that if I reached the bottom of a bottle of wine, I could feel some sense of deluded, drunk joy.
I allowed my eating disorder to dig me back into the same hole I climbed out of 3 years earlier; coupled with depression, this hole was deeper and darker than before.
I would spend nights crying because the only thoughts in my head were, “I just want to die.” My therapist noticed the drastic weight loss for my already thin frame. She forced me to confront my own reality, which was that I was slowly killing myself.
I was intentionally trying to disappear.
There is an entire beautiful, wonderful world out there and I was spending my days trying to make it go away.
My problems became too big for our twice-weekly therapy sessions, so she suggested more intensive treatment options. It seemed like a simple fix, I disappear to one of these ritzy, spa-like treatment centers in god know’s, USA. I know people who have spent time in treatment centers like these. While I have seen firsthand their successfulness, I also recall some of the lost souls I met during my own time in treatment. I met girls who had spent most of their lives in and out of treatment.
When I was in treatment, I promised myself this would be my one and only time. I promised myself I would not allow my eating disorder to disrupt my life and put my dreams on the back burner. I knew that if I “went away” I would actually be disappearing. I would be telling my eating disorder, “You win, I will go away because you will not.”
The idea of repeating the cycle of addiction, which is what I consider my eating disorder, woke me the f*ck up. When I made the first phone call to one of the many treatment centers my therapist had recommended, I realized right then and there I was the only one who could help get myself out of this dark hole.
I decided it was time to get better for good. No treatment, pills, or therapy was going to confront the issues I always had with myself.
That was the day I decided to love myself.
I started with cleaning my room. For the last six months, I had buried myself in a cloud of incense and hung up tapestries to cover my windows so no sunlight could disrupt my sullen state. I re-enrolled in classes for the following semester. I began journaling again—I’d forgotten how passionate I was about writing. I gave up my rigorous gym routine. I kept saying I was going to start doing yoga, but always found an excuse not to make my first class.
Then, one day I was driving through town. I passed by the tiny, boutique yoga studio and I saw a woman outside arranging a sign for classes. I said, “F*ck it,” parallel parked my car, and walked right up to the woman. I nervously inquired about classes and she told me to come back that evening.
That night I attended my very first yoga class. It was just me and the studio owner, Susan. Before we began our practice, she asked me what brought me to yoga. Like word vomit, I spilled out my entire story like I was paying for a therapy session instead of a yoga class. After I divulged my entire life story, Susan took me through an introduction to yoga class and assessed my very poor flexibility, strength, and balance.
I know it’s very un-yoga for me to say this, but at first, I sucked at yoga.
All of the strenuous exercise coupled with my unwillingness to nourish my own body for so many years made yoga difficult for me. However, without yoga I would have never realized the havoc I had been putting my body through for so many years.
Yoga requires a clear head, concentration, and a healthy body. Yoga showed me the aspects of my life and my health that I had been neglecting for so long. I began to view my body in a different light. I began to value you my body and, in turn, I began to love it.
I felt a connection to Susan as not only a yoga teacher, but as a motherly figure, and someone I looked up to in many ways. I felt comfortable in her classes despite my inability to even touch my toes for the first month. I would find myself frustrated at times and even discouraged, but I knew I wanted this.
This motivated me to keep getting better and healthier with each new day. I needed yoga in my life, I needed to let it love me how I desired to love myself.
It has been over a year and a half since I unrolled my mat for the first time in an actual studio. I have been to countless different yoga classes and have had the opportunity to explore different styles, practices and teachers.
Starting yoga was one of the most difficult things I have done, but it has given me so many wonderful accomplishments along the way. I will never forget the first time I kicked up into headstand during a class, or when I learned to balance in Bakasana without falling on my face.
Whether in a class of 30, or alone in my room, it is always just me on my mat.
I will never forget the day I came across Susan’s studio and I will never forget the day I bit the bullet and attended my first yoga class, because that is the day I chose to get better.
The day I started doing yoga is the day I started to love myself, my life, and this beautiful, wonderful world.
Author: K. Librizzi
Editor: Emily Bartran
Photo: Author’s Own