I always try to explain my post titles somewhere . . . but this one is such a non-sequitur, I’ll just get it out of the way now. I’m a big nerd. Stupid shit makes me laugh, and I’m sure you’ve guessed based on the fact that I have musical theatre, Lord of the Rings, and now Star Wars references scattered throughout the blog, that I embrace my geek-chicness proudly. You will most likely encounter a Monty Python reference or two along the journey, as well. Silly walks, anyone?
So, because my nerd love doesn’t turn off, even in uber-cool, zen settings, I don’t mind telling you that every time I walk into a yoga class, my brain starts its own parody of Weird Al Yankovic’s “Yoda” (Can we discuss how awesome the creator of this video is? Nerd crush-worthy)
Anyhow, those who tag-surfed their way here on my “yoga” tag: don’t despair. I am indeed blogging about yoga. (To those who followed the “Weird Al” tag, sorry, his involvement ends here)
Most treatment centres these days have some sort of yoga program for their patients. Yoga is one of the most commonly recommended practices for those recovering from eating disorders. Like the full-fat dairy thing (see my last post) I was never super clear on why. I had heard things about it balancing the frontal lobe (centre for reason and logic in the brain) and the amygdala (gets super agitated and triggered). I don’t know much about that fancy science stuff . . . I just sing and dance, and get my info on important things from Wikipedia. I just assumed that yoga was what they gave us to shut us up about exercise . . . “See? You don’t need to run . . . you can put your feet behind your head instead!”
For me, yoga was always just an extension of the dance world . . . something that they tacked on at the end of a workshop day to help us improve our flexibility. It wasn’t about anything other than forcing postures to make us better dancers. I used and abused yoga the way I do everything connected to my body. I learned from my Swedish ballet teacher, “If your toesss isss not bleedink by zee ent off my classss, you are not workink hart eeenough!”, and I applied that philosophy to my whole life.
Earlier this summer, I asked my therapist if, since I’d significantly reduced the amount of exercise I was engaging in, I could sign up for the free yoga class offered at my support centre. Not surprisingly, she thought I might just be using it as a “symptom-swap”, and told me she thought it would be a bad idea until I was eating enough calories. What, you mean most people don’t pass out in downward dog? Now that I’m eating better (most days), she is all for the yoga. A couple of weeks ago, my yoga practice was reborn. (Is it just me, or is it strange to practice something you never perform?)
They have this AMAZING thing in Toronto (and some other cities) called a “Passport to Prana“. You buy the card for $30, and you can take one free class at each of a bunch of yoga studios in your city. Perfect way, in addition to summertime “park yoga”, to practice on a budget. So armed with my yoga mat, and a bottle of coconut water (downward dog still makes me a little dizzy sometimes), I headed back into yoga.
Now, those who know me best know I’m a big ol skeptic. I don’t dive headfirst into anything without doing my research, collecting evidence, and calculating the best escape route. So my very zen-like yoga attitude was, “Prove it”. And yoga did.
My first teacher dedicated the whole class to encouraging us (in very subtle ways) to love our bodies. My body wanted to weep with the hope that maybe I would. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t hate my body. Some of my earliest memories involve me standing, crying, in a mirror picking apart my flaws. I could feel my brain resisting with every fibre of its being.
My next class was focused more on just the postures, which meant focusing on my physical body for an extended period of time. I was surprised to find that I was thinking about my body in a less critical manner: not thinking about what it looked like, but what it was doing (and was struggling to do).
In my first outdoor class, we were encouraged to listen to our bodies, and choose what we wanted to do based on how we were feeling. I have never been asked, in all my years of ill-fated athletic endeavours, what my body needed. I’m sure my body wasn’t thrilled to spend time in sub-zero temperatures, falling repeatedly on its ass as a figure skater. As a competitive swimmer, we did laps til we puked, then did some more. And no matter how “ready” you are to dance en pointe, human toes were not meant to bear the entire weight of a human body, no matter how underweight that body may be. Surprisingly, my body wanted different things every time the teacher asked . . . but maybe not so surprisingly, it never wanted the most active, calorie-burningest option. Go figure. I did my best not to let my brain belittle my body in those moments. There’s nothing constructive about calling your body an unmotivated lazy ass when a moment later you have to trust your arms to not drop you on your head . . . where that bully of a brain lives.
Last night, my class amazed me. In spite of how poorly I’ve been treating it these past couple of weeks, or maybe because of it, my body was hell-bent on proving to me that caring for it was worth it. It did things I didn’t know it could do! I’ve given it every reason not to trust me, but it never once let me fall. It held up like a trooper. I may not yet be at “body love”, but at least interest, obervation, and even amazement are sure a hell of a lot different from “body hatred”.