How Yoga Rescued Me From My Eating Disorder

I was seventeen years old when I walked into a church basement with a borrowed yoga mat to try my first yoga class. I had already survived multiple traumas in my life, all of which left me anxiety-riddled, depressed, confused and damaged. Seemingly my only outlet to cope with the pain was the dangerous eating disorder I had kept hidden for years.
Eating disorders are snarly beasts that creep into every facet of their “host’s” existence. As much as I was warm, open, loving and genuine, my eating disorder was cold, closeted, harsh and insincere. My life was unmanageable and I was constantly on the cusp of spiraling wildly out of control.
Doctors would later describe my eating disorder as one of the worst cases they had ever encountered.
Yet oddly enough the combination of severe purging with extreme caloric restriction was a comfort to me. I grew attached to this behavior as a means to get by, and in result, my eating disorder became my longest, most serious and intimate relationship.
My eating disorder became my longest, most serious and intimate relationship.
I sobbed during my first Savasana. For the first time, I was able to notice my own breath and the beauty of my living body, and it forever changed me.
Yoga met me right where I was. That first yoga class taught me yoga is about connecting the mind, body and spirit through breath. This finally gave me the opportunity to simply inhale and exhale.

My eating disorder became my longest, most serious and intimate relationship.

That seemingly small opportunity to just breathe made me realize that I had been holding my breath for the past eighteen years in anticipation of another traumatic event. Yoga allowed me to finally exhale, to exist, and to be grateful.
It was on that borrowed yoga mat where I first allowed myself to be vulnerable and let go. In that hour I was present, aware, and honest with myself. I was able to feel what it was like to be in control of my own life. As cliché as it might sound, this was the first day of the rest of my life.
I was able to feel what it was like to be in control of my own life.
Yoga quickly became a big part of my life and my daily routine. Any amount of time I was able to spend on my mat breathing and connecting to myself gave me the power I needed. The more I practiced yoga, the more I became aware of the disconnect that existed between my body and my mind.

I was able to feel what it was like to be in control of my own life.

Yoga enabled me to wake up and see what was there all along. My eating disorder had severed my body and my Self – I had lost the ability to truly feel – which is subconsciously what I needed to escape the pain of my past traumas.
As my awareness grew, I was able to discern between my own thoughts and the negative thought patterns associated with my eating disorder.
I was able to look in the mirror and not only accept what I saw, but love what I saw. I began to shift my perspective from being ‘fat and unappealing’ to being healthy, beautiful and attractive.

Yoga opened my eyes to the person I truly am, it gave me the mental strength and clarity I need. Yoga continues to help me to love my body, love myself and love my life. I truly do not know where I would be without it.

If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, know that you are strong enough to get through it. I recommend the following resources:

Please know you are not alone and you can find a path to recovery as well. If you have any questions, want to connect, or have a positive thought to share, please do so in the comments below!

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Kara Marell

Kara Marell has been practicing yoga since 2008 and is a 230 hour yoga teacher. She is passionate about helping people find their own peace. Located in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Kara teaches a variety of classes and workshops including Mindful Flow- a class she created that blends a Vinyasa approach with Mindfulness- based cuing techniques to create a moving meditation.

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