In 2008 I published a book about my recovery from anorexia and compulsive exercise. For years, my work was focused on education, advocacy, and recovery support, specifically for eating disorders. If you glance at my life now, it might look like I'm on a different career path. Most days, I teach straight asana. But my over-arching mission is really very much the same. My approach, though, has shifted distinctly.
My ultimate aim as a yoga educator is embodiment: my work is to help students land in their bodies and have a working relationship to where they are in space, an understanding of which limitations are real and which are perceived, and to see more clearly what is true and what is not so true about who they are as and in a physical body.
In case you want to know, my curiosity about my body's limitations is no less than it was when I was exploring starvation. The difference is that, now, I use the information and make life-affirming choices. In other words, I get very curious about the limitations, and I honor them rather than stubbornly destroy them. I honor the real limitations, and sometimes I honor the perceived ones too, because, fuck, I'm human, and it's hard to be human.
Via asana practice, I learn what is real and true in my body. I learn how my body can move, and I learn to adjust and adapt day by day, season by season. In this, the work of recovery continues, though I don't think about it as 'recovery' anymore. I think about it as coping with being human. Some days, I think about it as being at peace with being human, or even (!!), being happy being human.
Via teaching asana, I commit to helping my students accurately sense their bodies in space. Through my verbal alignment instructions, they have an opportunity to hone in on specific actions that give them tangible feedback about...being human. Feedback such as: This hurts. This doesn't hurt. Now I can bend more. When I do the other thing, I can't bend as much. And so on.
This is in stark contrast to the voice of an eating disorder, which completely ignores all sensory physical signals, and thrives in a distorted mental realm. In that realm, all sorts of stories get made up, stories which have little or no resemblance to the truth.
All that said, even in the yoga world, there's a fair amount of body distortion happening. The work doesn't always work. We get side tracked or lose our way. We forget what we're in it for.
I am still plugging away advocating for recovery and educating people about being well in relationship to their flesh, but my approach, like I said, is quite different. I don't have to always talk directly about anorexia to do my part.
But, once in a while it seems right to look it in the eye. And because in fact I do have a lot to say about this, and because my dear friend and strong voice, Livia Cohen-Shapiro does too, we are dedicating some time to this topic this winter and spring.
Learn how what you're already doing in your yoga practice can be healing for body image. Investigate why it doesn't always work. Uncover what's coming up for you when you practice. Dissect the shadow voices of body image, and expose yourself to images of embodiment. No agenda to get any certain 'thing,' but a supportive curriculum and framework to help you do the inner research.
Please join us. The course has already begun, but we are keeping registration open for a few more days. The link to enroll in the online webinar is here. Listen in your own time. Join the conversation as you are ready.