Tag Archives: Ballet

Eating Disorder Recovery: Yoga On A Budget

You made it! Part 4/4!

Today we’re covering yoga on a budget, and whatever else I forgot in earlier posts.

You may ask: “Kelly, why is yoga as important as life and food and clothing?” Well, since in recovery you have to heal your mind and your body, what better way to do it than by practising something that is good for both your mind and your body?

For me, most of my life was spent performing: looking in a mirror, figuring out what my body looked like while moving. Who cared what I was doing to my body (ahem, pointe shoes), so long as it looked pretty? That, coupled with the obsessive cardio I did as a part of my eating disorder, meant that I had a pretty messed up relationship with my body. Yoga taught me to pay attention to what my body felt like, instead of what it looked like. It’s also the only time in my life when my head shuts off (sometimes) which is something that I think can benefit anyone, especially those with an eating disorder.

Alas, yoga be expensive. (Especially in France, I’m told). Here are some tips I’ve used to maximize the yoga on a minimal budget.

  1. Lululemon. Most (all?) Lululemon stores offer FREE YOGA CLASSES! I go every Sunday. They get a different teacher from a different area studio to teach for a couple of weeks at a time. I’ve met some of my favorite yoga teachers there.

    Lululemon Yoga Outside

  2. Passport to Prana. A Passport to Prana is a $30 card that gets you a free yoga class at each of many studios in major cities in Canada and the United States. I think there are 40+ studios in Toronto alone, which works out to less than $1/class.
  3. Energy Exchange. Several studios offer an energy exchange program, where you can pay for yoga classes with your time. You can clean studios, work the front desk, help with computer stuff, etc. In Toronto I know Kula, Moksha Danforth, Yoga Sanctuary (take home a communal mat to clean in exchange for a free class), and Sundara Yoga all have Energy Exchange programs. I’m sure there are more.
  4. Park Yoga. Different teachers and studios will offer park yoga classes in the summer months. Usually these are by donation for charity. There’s nothing like lying in savasana looking at the sky.
  5. Karma Classes. Most studios offer karma classes, where you can take classes from new teachers, again by donation.
  6. Share The Love Yoga. Share The Love Yoga is a website that has organized all the free/karma/inexpensive classes in Montreal, New York, and Toronto into a weekly schedule. You can find a class at pretty much any day/time.

There are lots of yoga DVDs and YouTube videos, etc. but use them with caution. It’s really easy to get injured if your form isn’t correct, and it’s important to at least start learning yoga with a teacher.

Okay. On to the “Damn. I should have mentioned that.” section.

  1. Groups. If you can’t afford private therapy (even with all these amazing tips), try to find group therapy. You can usually find inexpensive or free groups in major cities. In Toronto, check out Sheena’s Place, in Burlington, Danielle’s Place, in London (Ontario), Hope’s Garden. Feel free to add others in the comments.
  2. Jobs With Perks. When you are well enough to work, try to find a job that gives you a discount on necessities. Clothing stores do that, but you usually have to wear their clothes, and end up spending your entire paycheque in the store. If you can handle the food industry, do. I love my health food discount.
  3. Campus Services. If you’re in school, check out what eating disorder/mental health services are available. Some schools will even subsidize your off-campus therapy.
  4. Eating Disorder Charities. Beat down the doors of NEDA, NEDIC, or anyone else who might be able to help.

I hope you found something you can use in these posts. Please feel free to keep sharing your tips and tricks (the healthy kind) in the comments. Thanks, as always, for reading.

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The Sadder But Wiser Girl

I’m exhausted. I know, I know. That seems to be the human condition these days: everyone is tired. But honestly, I haven’t felt this bad physically since the depths of my eating disorder. I’m worn out, dizzy, weepy, and a flight of stairs can do me in. My naturopath says this is normal, as everything in my body and mind is shifting, and the only remedy is rest.

Rest. Totally got it. Work a 9 hour shift, sit on my ass for the rest of the night. Go to yoga, do a bridge instead of full wheel. Go to ballet, do single pirouettes instead of triples and mark the jumps.

Apparently, that’s not resting. I don’t know how to rest. Even now, as I recline on my couch, I’m doing research, cleaning, and blogging. I’m constantly terrified of what my mind will do if I let it be. I can deal with it in controlled doses, but if I gave it free run of the place, who knows what it will come up with? I prefer my brain safely battery-caged. And if I don’t exercise . . . well, there’s no telling what my body would do. It’s a process.

Interesting things have been happening emotionally, too. It’s funny how out-of-control exhaustion makes me feel. Historically, I have tried to control my emotions through silence or cover them with a mask of anger. If you’re silent, nobody knows you’re feeling anything. If you’re angry, people leave you alone. But if you’re sad . . . people can sense weakness and exploit it. It’s a dangerous thing.

Yesterday, in group, I decided to try to express myself without using anger to cover it. My usual response to everything: “This is BULLSHIT! This doesn’t actually work for real people. I’m SO DONE!”. Not so productive, but it’s my way of saying “I disagree, I don’t understand, I’m feeling hopeless” without sobbing. Yesterday, I tried the latter. And sobbed. And sobbed. I don’t remember the last time I cried that hard. It kind of sucked. But you know what? Don’t tell WGT, but I actually feel somewhat better. When I don’t let it out, I ruminate and just get angrier until I explode. When I explode, I feel like an asshole, and hate myself even more.

So now I’m living with sadness. I’m really sad. I have a lot of years of unexpressed emotions to work through, and it’s not going to be an easy or fun process, but on the other side of fear is freedom. Gotta hope.

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There’s Gotta Be Something Better Than This

(Back to the song titles)

This is going to sound kind of stupid for a while, but bear with me. I hope it will make sense in the end. You know. One of those recovery metaphor things I’m so fond of. Kind of. Blah. Here goes.

As per usual, a little bit of back story is required.

I’ve always REALLY sucked at picking up choreography. Like, really really. No matter how hard I tried, no matter how much I focused, no matter how much I practised on the side, unless I had a night to sleep on it, I wasn’t going to remember the choreo. Didn’t matter if it was someone else’s moves or my own steps. This was just a fact of my life. It didn’t matter if I was in a somewhat normal state of eating, a somewhat restrictive state of eating, or a full-blown anorexic state of eating: no amount of food would allow me to know the choreography well enough to dance full-out at an audition.

Now, I have a pretty damned decent memory for other things. I can recall conversations from my childhood verbatim. I can remember what I wore on specific dates days, weeks, years ago. I can tell you what grade I got on my geography test when I was 12. In my nerdiest times, I can look at a playbill and tell you:

  1. Who in the cast I’ve seen in other shows
  2. What roles they played in that show, and sometimes
  3. What name they went by before they joined Equity. They call me the Musical Theatre Encyclopaedia. Nerdiest superpower ever.

This freakish memory, however, has never extended to choreography. Frustrating as hell, but that’s my life.

Or . . .

that WAS my life.

This weekend, I decided on the spur of the moment to teach a musical theatre class instead of a tap class. I haven’t danced a step of musical theatre choreography in about 18 months. I had 15 minutes to pick music, choreograph a dance, and be ready to teach. I started scrolling through my iPod (which is, conveniently, filled with showtunes) and began to panic: I don’t think I can do this. I can’t come up with something worth teaching in this little time, and there’s no way I’ll remember it once I do! Maybe I can just teach choreography I already know from a show I’ve done before . . .

I decided to make an effort. I put on a song I know and enjoy, and just started dancing. Some of it worked, some of it didn’t. I tweaked it, and kept adding on. By the end of the 15 minutes, I had a workable dance. It wouldn’t win a Tony award or anything, but it wasn’t basic “recital” choreography either. I started teaching, waiting for the moment when I’d forget.

I didn’t.

I taught the whole dance, and we danced it together, full out. It ended up being good enough that the studio owner filmed it for promotional use. If it had been an audition, I think I would have booked it.

I’ve been semi-noticing my memory improving in ballet these past few months, but I didn’t realize the extent of it until Saturday. I can remember choreography now.

Cool. Good for you, Kelly. But where’s the metaphor? What’s the point?

A few weeks ago, I was reading a post from the blog A Life Unmeasured. She looked at the definition of “recovery”: the regaining of something taken away, or a return to a former condition. Her take on this:

“I want to create my life, not get back what I’ve lost.  I want to be more forgiving of myself, less perfectionistic, more adventurous, less cautious.  In other words, I want to let go of this idea I have that I will be “recovered” when I am like I used to be.  I can’t be that way anymore, unless I choose a life of relapse, which is what I’ve gotten in the past.”

I don’t want to go back to the life that I had before, either. That was the life that I starved to get away from. I’ve spent my entire life trying to destroy what was and put something better in its place. I’ve gone about it the wrong ways, but even now, trying to do it “for real” this time, I never really believed that my life would be anything different than it was before.

This may be a silly, small thing, the memory for dance, but it gives me hope that maybe things will be “better than ever” in other areas of my life, too.

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Filed under Blatherings, History Lessons, Inspiration

What The Girl At The Health Food Store REALLY Thinks About You

Strange title, I know. And no, it’s not a song title . . . that I know of . . . but I have many musical friends and I’m sure one of them could come up with something. (Musical Friends: if you come up with something good, I’ll TOTALLY post it)

Elephant Journal Logo via google

Anyhow. Some weeks ago, I was reading a post on elephantjournal.com entitled What Your Yoga Teacher REALLY Thinks About You. Naturally, coming from the hyper-critical world of dance, and being the cynical, judgement-paranoid girl that I am, I expected it to be a “Stop fixing your hair in downward dog/Make sure you have bathed in the last 3 days before coming to class/please make sure your yoga pants aren’t threadbare – I don’t want to see your hot pink thong” kind of thing. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

The author, Kristin Althea, is all about the love. She thinks the sweat, and the shirt riding up, and the falling out of poses, and the being human is beautiful. Well, knock me down with a feather. And for some reason, this skeptic-of-the-year believes her.

It made me think, too, about places besides yoga class when I worry about judgement. In the eating disorder world, judgement is a pathological fear. The grocery store clerk, at one time, could have reduced me to tears if she had so much as commented on anything I bought. (ie Wow! You buy a lot of cucumbers!) I remember, when I first started eating again, that being sent to the health food store was the most traumatic of all. These weren’t just people bearing witness to the food I purchased, but people who knew something about food, who likely ate healthily themselves, and had the ultimate authority to judge my groceries.

Now, I’m that person at the cash register of the health food store, pointing you in the direction of chia seeds, teaching you how to cook quinoa, and asking that often shame-inducing question, “Are these the organic cranberries, or regular?” From this position of power, I thought I’d write my own:

 What The Girl At The Health Food Store REALLY Thinks About You

As a shopper, I’m always convinced that cashiers are taking note of everything in my cart. I will often make excuses or jokes about things I’m uncomfortable about buying, or things I buy with great regularity. But here’s the shocker: I don’t have a clue what was in the cart of the person I rang through 5 seconds ago, let alone last time you came in. I worked for 9 hours today, and I can’t tell you more than one item that anyone bought today.

There are some exceptions to this checkout amnesia. There is “Hummus Lady”, with whom I have bonded over our mutual love of Sunflower Kitchen hummus, and the fact that she buys two tubs every time she comes in (sometimes more than once a week). She made jokes about it, at first, saying “You must think I’m absolutely insane, buying this much hummus.” I hadn’t noticed until then. Now it’s a running joke. There’s a little 2-yr-old boy who I absolutely love, and I know he’ll always buy his favorite cereal that he calls “Papa’s Cherrios” and, if it’s a Friday, “Choco Milk”. I know what foods some of my regulars buy, but it’s objective knowledge. No judgement involved.

  • When I ask you “organic, or non?” I’m not judging your response: I just need to know which code to ring in. Organic is expensive. I, of anyone, understand if you choose the cheaper route. I’m just happy you’re choosing to spend the money you have at our small, independent health food store, rather than at one of the “big name” stores. My bosses are some of the greatest human beings I’ve ever met, and I’d rather your money go to raising their families, than to furnishing the 2nd home of the “big name” store CEO.
  • If you have 2 bags of chips, I’m not thinking “Wow, what a glutton.” I’m thinking, “Ok, remember to take the promotional discount off of the second bag . . . oh hey, I didn’t know we got a new flavor . . . how can I bag their groceries without crushing these?” I swear. I’m too busy doing my job to think any less of you. Besides, I’m all about balance. Have the courage to eat your chips without shame.
  • If I ask you a question about why you are choosing an item, or what recipe you’re using it in, I’m not testing you: I don’t know enough about it and I really want to learn. Thanks for teaching me.
  • Unlike Kristin, I don’t think you all are beautiful. My job title makes me little more than pond scum to many people, despite the fact that I have spent more years in college than just about anyone who isn’t a doctor or lawyer. You treat me like shit, I’m not going to think that you’re beautiful. But, I have many customers of every age, shape, race, religion, and sexual orientation who I think are incredibly beautiful human beings. These people make the percentage of assholes I deal with bearable. I have customers who will introduce me as their friend, ones who I will talk with (on a slow day) for more than an hour, ones who I hug, ones who I share private jokes with, ones who I cry with over their illnesses and losses. There are people who will come by to share their cooking that they made specially for me to try (this is a challenge, but as long as it’s vegetarian, I will always at least try it). These are the things that make people beautiful to me. Not what they look like, nor what they have in their cart.

So next time you walk into a health food store, hold your head high. You’re doing something brave, and you have every right to be there. The store’s employees aren’t judging you (well, they might be judging your snarky attitude, but if you don’t have one of those, you’re good to go). Besides, chances are the girl ringing up your goji berries and coconut ice cream is working there to develop a better relationship with the food she fears so much, and is too busy worrying about what she’s going to eat for snack that day to scrutinize your cart.

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Filed under Blatherings, Fighting Fear, History Lessons

We Can Never Go Back To Before

. . . right?

Wait. It’s 11:30 am on a Friday. It’s not a holiday (yet). Why is Kelly blogging? Isn’t she supposed to be at work?

Yes, yes she . . . er, I am.

There are a lot of unpleasant side effects of eating disorders, many of which don’t go away even well into recovery. One such charming side effect: I’m not sure how it happened, I just know it has gotten worse with the progression of my eating disorder. Somehow, I’ve done something weird to my nerves. It could have something to do with the fact that the casing of your nerves is made up of fat, and fat loss leaves your nerves more exposed. Apparently that fat casing doesn’t rebuild as quickly as, say, my ass.

So today at work I slammed the top of my foot into the corner of a large metal-and-wood fixture. It hurt. A lot. Immediately, my focus splits: “Shit, I hope I haven’t broken anything” (the osteo makes my bones brittle) and “Shit, I hope this doesn’t make me pass out”. See, with increasing frequency over the past ten years, any time I get hit, my nerves go haywire and I pass out. It has happened at home, at work, at parties, at rehearsals, sometimes for something as stupid as slamming my finger in a changeroom door. It’s most inconvenient.

I don’t think I broke anything (bruising and swelling, but nothing too major), but I did pass out. Thank the coconut gods for their water. So I’m at home for a few hours until my body stops freaking out.

Days like today remind me why I am trying to put my eating disorder behind me. I know people say to focus on the positive, but for me, it’s not so easy. I was able to maintain the façade of “okay” a lot of the time, and had a lot of positive experiences, even when sick. (Have I mentioned I’m an Olympic Gold Medallist? More on that later)  It took a lot for me to fall apart and lose everything, and there’s a lot of space between “rock bottom” and “recovery”. And the pain of emaciation sucked, but merely “underweight” was pretty liveable (at least, that’s what my brain tells me). Instead, I focus on the things that really, truly sucked about my eating disorder, at any weight.

  • This stupid nerve thing. I can only hope it will go away over time, so long as I hold onto recovery.
  • The stupid bone thing. Apparently some of the damage might be partially reversible (doctors are so clear on these things), and I’d love to be allowed to do inversions in yoga, dance en pointe without fear, and be able to kickbox, or play contact football, or just be reckless without having to hold back.
  • My stupid memory. I notice everything, and remember everything, but lately it seems to be selective. Ok, very selective. I have a big problem remembering people’s names. And faces. I would be the worst police witness. I could tell you what shoes the person had on, maybe their hair color, but facial features? Might as well ask me to guess their birth date. I have to see a person many times, for long periods of time, or see a picture of them to remember their face. Weird.
  • Losing friends. I’m not talking people who peace out because they can’t handle your eating disorder (that sucks, too), but the fact that I couldn’t even hang out with friends who did stick around: “Wanna go out for dinner?” No, can’t eat. “Drinks?” No, too many calories. “A movie?” Only if it’s between the hours of 3 and 7, because I don’t know how long it would take me to walk to the theatre, and any other time would interfere with my food and exercise rituals. It’s hard to hang out with someone with so many rules.

I’m sure there are many more things that sucked, but nothing stood out as much as the last one:

  • The inability to express myself. Yes, there are many fears around taking up space, saying the wrong thing, etc., and when I get scared or emotional, I lose the ability to speak altogether, but this is different. I remember vividly, many times in group or sessions (really, the only activities I did when I was in my “rock bottom” times) when I’d have something to say, something important, something that might help someone else, and no matter how slowly I spoke or how much I focused, I couldn’t form coherent sentences. It would frustrate me so much, and people would humor me, but I knew it just wasn’t coming out right.

Nowadays, I can usually get out the things I want to say (except when I’m scared, emotional, or unworthy), at least in writing, if not verbally. Hence the blog. I always know when I’ve slipped too far off my meal plan, because my coherence is the first thing to go.

What are the things that keep you from going back to before? It doesn’t have to be eating disorder related. We all have former selves that we work hard to leave behind. Let me know!

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Every Little Step

There it is. I saw this on Pinterest (Obsessed. Did you know it’s the fastest growing social media site ever? I learned that from an infographic I saw on Pinterest) and it really resonated with me.

Recovery is one of those things that everyone thinks they’ll be able to just jump into as soon as they make up their mind to. Obviously since we’re completely in control of our eating disorder we’ll be totally in control of our recovery, right? I think fighting for recovery on my own, outside of treatment, was the first time I’d realized just how in control of my eating disorder I wasn’t. I thought I’d be fixed overnight, but almost a year later I’m still far from “recovered”. I mean, I’m doing well with the food stuff, but I still have a long way to go before I feel “normal”.

Y’all know I love me a good metaphor, and I’ve got a good one for this “steps to recovery” thing. And guess what: it’s dance-related.

When I started back into ballet in January, I figured I’d just pick back up where I left off. I mean, I’d only been off dance for less than a year. No matter that I’d starved off all my muscle and regained a ton of weight that, well, wasn’t muscle: I was gonna be a ballerina in no time!

No such luck. Nothing was working like it was “supposed” to. I was driving myself insane(r) trying to focus on everything I needed to fix. I couldn’t fix everything at once. So, I decided to do it in chunks. First chunk I fixed: my arms. I figure it doesn’t matter what your feet are doing, so long as your upper body looks supported and correctly positioned. My arms improved. Other things improved along with it without my noticing. I’ve worked my way through my body, focusing on a new part every few weeks: core, turnout, spotting, feet, leg stretch. I’m never going to be a prima ballerina, but I’ve improved a lot.

I feel like the same thing is true for recovery. You’re probably not going to be able to eat a cake right away (or even a year later, in some cases . . . so I’ve heard . . . ) but something is better than nothing. I started off by adding things to what I was already eating. I added an apple to my bowl of (in the interest of not sharing any unhealthy tips and tricks, I’ll just call it “air”) , and adding bit by bit, slowly that bowl evolved into my über healthy current breakfast. The current breakfast contains no (air), but I almost didn’t notice it changing. Almost. It was fucking terrifying every step, but the little steps were WAY more manageable than going from (air) to my souped-up steel cut oatmeal.

Patience is hard. But so is recovery. Baby steps make it less hard – slightly. The important thing is to keep taking the steps. When you stop stepping forward, you start stepping backwards, and I promise: that’s not where you really want to be.

(P.S. The pint-sized prima ballerina? Baby Liza. She’s never looked more like her Mama)

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Angry Dance

Seriously. That’s a song title from a musical. Very to-the-point, Sir Elton.

I don’t know if it’s anger or frustration or what, but today is one of those days when I just want to search and destroy. The child in me wants to shred things and bite things and throw things and scream. Alas, I can’t scream. It’s a physical impossibility.

What is the answer to anger expression when you’re an adult? I only know how to express it in unhealthy ways by turning it inwards (that’s usually its origin, anyways, so it’s a short turn). I’d do an angry dance, but everything always ends up too balletic, and that doesn’t exactly lend itself to the expression of anger . . . more the expression of “My, what a pretty flower!” I used to belt my face off (sing), but I’m limited on soundproof spaces, and my deteriorating vocal technique just makes me angrier.

So what does one do with anger when temper tantrums are no longer an option? I suspect tearing my yoga mat along its “Align” lines isn’t the answer . . .

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