My Sense of Solace

June 3, 2018

As the teardrops cascaded onto my mat and my breath yo-yo’d all too familiarly, the shame flowed in uncontrollably, attempting to consume me. Downward dog, one legged dog, chaturanga-the poses flew through my burdened being as my breath slowly moseyed back towards a more manageable rhythm. Repressed emotions created trapped puddles behind my eye sockets as my sore hips rested gratefully in pigeon. The familiarity of the poses, feeling of returning looseness in my joints, and comfort of my stabilizing breath provided a rediscovered sense of solace. As the cooling scent of lavender proliferated into the stale air the wind rattled the windows of my painfully empty dorm room, contrasting starkly with what I once knew to be a socially rich, lively environment. Those nagging, critical thoughts lingered beneath the surface of my conscience, this time bargaining for an extended stay.

I can’t believe you ate coconut chips! Those have way too much fat in them which not only will spike your weight but will cause your skin to break out. Do you really want to be ugly forever? The flow and I resisted tenderly, challenging their strength yet struggling not to fall victim to their power. Should I add coconut chips to my restriction list? I’ll try eating it one more time tomorrow and if I break out at all within a week or gain weight then I’ll know never to eat them again. At times my eating disorder has overpowered my voice, and even during these times my yoga practice has been there for me.

 

*Several weeks later, after beginning to go to a nutritional therapist and ED therapist regularly and rediscovering comfort in my local yoga community*~

Waves of relaxed breaths echoed around me as the warmth of the glowing studio light illuminated the prayer flags, carefully muraled walls, and shiny wood floors of my second home. My breath led my body through the restful poses that had become second nature, gently guiding me towards a more blissful state. Quivering slightly, my overworked limbs soaked in the release that they had been deprived of recently. I was sore from over-exercising but I was doing the next best thing for recovery and that’s what mattered. The familiar sound of my teachers voice lingering soothingly. As I peered down at the crease between my knee and my thigh muscle, judgements unpleasantly rang in my ears. Although I wasn’t always content with the way the musculature of my legs looked, they allowed me to surrender completely to the support of the earth beneath me. They were there to honor my body’s call for a deep, relaxing supine stretch. They carry me through many asanas, allow me to share this moving practice with others through my teaching, and soak in the abundant support of the Earth below each time I bask in the light of savasana after a moving practice.  I take comfort in allowing myself to enjoy them in this way and realizing there’s other ways they can serve me that have a lot more value than simply looking a certain way.

 

The revitalizing scent of pure peppermint began to anchor me back to the present moment as the spongy surface of my lime green mat nestled my succumbing limbs. Conflicting thoughts of what I was or wasn’t going to have for dinner crept in slowly, diverting my attention to measurements and carb counting. The thoughts were overwhelming and my eyes began to dampen as I wished I could “just be normal”. The calm aura and serene nature of the yogis around me reminded me that now was a time to give myself a break. After all, I have plenty of dinner options at home to choose from and they all have the right nutrients for my body. Also, everyone has their struggles. Everyone has a reason they turn to yoga to brighten their lives and this is one of mine. There’s nothing wrong with that. This is my time to relax ED. You’re not welcome here.

 

While at the studio, the nagging voice of my eating disorder still pokes its head around the corner but looking the other way continues to gradually turn into a less daunting task. Feeling like I belong in a community of others working towards their own wellbeing in different ways has really inspired me to continue to reach out to these communities rather than reach violently into the depths of myself. Instead of trying to change something that doesn’t need to be changed as a way to cope with life’s stressors, I continue to learn to use my body and mind in a healthy way and lean on my own practice of mindful movement to get me through. Rather than sticking my head in the sand and using my eating as “the one thing I can completely control in life” I’ve learned that when I completely control eating it gains the ability to take control over me.

In reality, I know that there’s nothing I can completely control in this life other than how I choose to cope with the curve balls that try to knock me down. Yoga is one of the strongest tools I have in that my toolbox for this and restrictive eating is one I’ve learnt doesn’t have a place in that box anymore.

Let’s allow ourselves to surrender into savasana, taking the time to prepare for a comforting release. I slowly reached for a bolster, blanket, and two blocks as I caught another short, appreciative glimpse of the welcoming community surrounding me. Regardless of my perceived shortcomings, the simple act of making myself as comfortable as possible in a restful pose sent a surge of self worth through my veins. Rest and acceptance were welcome here. The beloved Gayatri Mantra cascaded into my eardrums as the warmth of my steady heartbeat anchored me. As I rested in a seated posture, my eyes fluttered open steadily, currents of appreciation seemingly flowing out of my fingertips in Anjali mudra. Soft gazes met mine, silently reinforcing the encompassing sense of belonging that was becoming clearer with each visit. I feel held when I am at the yoga studio, and each time I return from a class my ability to hold myself grows stronger. My ability to remind myself that community means so much more than control becomes clearer. Even at times when my eating disorder voice is loud, I take comfort in knowing that I have a practice to turn to that will help strengthen MY voice. The worth, weight, and nutrition this provides for my soul is something that can never be measured.

 


Emma Butterfield 

Emma is a Portland-based yogi/200 hr certified instructor, outdoor lover, and art enthusiast with an interest in wellness/health. While taking a term off from her Human Services/Wellness Studies degree at Central Oregon Community College, she participates in and offers Yoga Nidra sessions at Providence Adult Eating Disorder Program. She enjoys expressing herself and portraying her body image journey through writing, art and yoga. Formerly, she offered free yoga classes through Student Government at COCC and has experience working as an intern for Yoga Live Link, as a yoga/music teacher at Inspire Early Learning Center, and as an Ambassador at Namaspa. More recently, she has continued her involvement in the yoga community by becoming a substitute yoga teacher for an independent RYT in Portland and looks forward to continuing to pursue her passion for yoga and its healing powers through further involvement in the YBIC. More recently, she has continued her involvement in the yoga community by becoming a substitute yoga teacher for an independent RYT in Portland and looks forward to continuing to pursue her passion for yoga and its healing powers through further involvement in the YBIC. website link: instagram.com/ems.caroline/

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