Connecting Mind and Body – A Journey Through Bulimia to My Self

June 6, 2018

I started yoga in college on a whim and loved it. Like most people, I came to the mat for the physical and stayed for the mental and emotional. I was completely scattered and looking for a way to feel control of something when I all I felt was completely out of control. I could manage relationships for a while, but eventually caused their demise. My mom was going through breast cancer (way out of my control) and I had absolutely no idea what to even call the emotions I had, let alone how to talk about them. It may sounds strange, but bulimia for me was never about what Ilooked like. I think for most people suffering an eating disorder it’s not really about appearance. It may start out that way, but eventually it becomes something bigger. For me, it was all about control, at least what I thought I could or could not control. Counseling never really got my out of my head and into my body. It never really connected me with me.

Yoga did that.

I went to one class, then another, and I probably kept coming initially because yoga felt like something I could control. I could control my body in a pose. My mind and all it’s craziness shut down for a while. And while I loved the movement and flow of yoga, I struggled at first to sit and breath. It meant I had to pay attention to me, really confront my thoughts, feel my body, feel my emotions.

Over time I learned to sit with myself. I learned what it meant to notice; to notice when I felt hungry or tired, felt my breath, when I felt something. I learned to notice the thoughts in my head, not hang on to all of them as truth, simply to become aware of them. I learned to notice the negative self-talk habits I had, the feelings that would lead to my bingeing and purging, and then I learned slowly that I didn’t need to do that anymore, that I could sit with those emotions, or talk to someone about them, that they wouldn’t stay forever. All this came from Svadhyaya, self-study, though I wouldn’t have called it that then. I just called it yoga. I just kept coming back to my mat, stumbling over the same feelings, falling out of poses, being antsy, until after a while I didn’t feel like I was stumbling so much any more. It took a while, but I got there.

I think of it like walking down the same path every day. Because it’s habit, you don’t even see the new pothole that’s starting to be created (the eating disorder). It starts kind of slowly, getting bigger over time. Because you always walk this path, you start falling into the hole, but you can’t really do anything about it because, this is just how it is, it’s what you do, it’s the way you always go. Eventually you start to notice the hole, but you fall in anyway. Slowly, you walk up to it, look in, and decide to fall in because you’re kind of still comfortable with that, but kind of not, but it’s what you’ve always done, so you do it. One day, you decide to walk around it. Then you start to alternate between walking around and falling in, until you consistently walk around it. Finally, one miraculous day, you turn around and choose a different path. There were so many, you just couldn’t see them before. Until you could, and you could choose something different.

Yoga for me built awareness, of the breath, the body, my thoughts, my habits. It begins small. It has to, especially if we feel disconnected from it (as with an eating disorder). I spent a lot of time ignoring my body & my emotions, not treating my body very well, to the point where I kind didn’t think about it, or notice it’s cues, much at all.

Coming back to the mat, taking time to focus on my breath, becoming aware of my thoughts and how I felt, were the baby steps that led to me choosing a different path from bulimia.

It reconnected me to my body, and through the body, to my mind and emotional self. Yoga truly was “the journey of the self, through the self, to the Self” for me.

If you or someone you know has experienced an eating disorder, yoga is not necessarily the end all be all answer. It is not a cure in an of itself. Rather it is a tool, an amazing tool to help on the path to recovery, and one of many that may be needed to truly free yourself of the addiction of disordered eating.


Tonia Nealey

Yoga came into Tonia’s life when she didn’t really have time for it, but really needed it. While earning an M.Ed, she also completed a 200 hour Teacher Training at Core Power Yoga in Minneapolis. It’s been a part of her life for the past 12 years through classes and retreats, practicing yoga both on and off the mat, and bringing yoga into her elementary school classroom, her family’s living room, and even the park! In her classes, she loves to play with a slow flow of creative sequencing, conscious breath, and a dose of inspiration to help you tune in to your body and your mind. Her goal is to meet you where you’re at, encourage you to move your own needle a little further, and enjoy the ride along the way.

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