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How yoga helped in my recovery from an eating disorder

Updated: Mar 19, 2019

Hi I’m Esther and I’m a mental health champion, yoga teacher and wellness mentor. 

My passion in life is helping others overcome internal barriers they have about their capabilities or abilities. 

I first began my own battle with self limiting beliefs and mental health age 12 in ballet school. I realised I didn’t look like the other girls and this began to affect my self esteem, mood and worth. Years later at 17 this turned into depression and restricting my food which then began a 13 year battle of 3 relapses with anorexia. 

I am so driven and passionate about helping others and sharing my experiences with mental health because back then I remember I desperately wanted someone to reach out to me to say; “I understand you, I’ve been there” but back then mental health was far less talked about in a positive light. 

For years my entire journey with depression and anorexia I felt ashamed and guilty as if I were a bad person and brought shame to my family, friends and myself. I felt so isolated and alone. 

This is why I use my voice now because I’ve learnt through my own journey to recovery that there is nothing to ashamed of about mental health. There more matters are discussed instead of avoided, the more people share, the more honesty is spoken, the more people do not feel alone and feel supported to recover. 

Yoga was a huge part in my outpatient recovery after leaving hospital for anorexia in 2011. In 2015 I was discharged from outpatient eating disorder services as I seemed healthy by maintaining my target weight and had managed 2 years without compulsive disorder exercising behaviours. 

However i knew my mind wasn’t as healthy as my body looked and after a few too many months feeling the temptation of old behaviours grow stronger, I turned to yoga philosophy to guide me. I began reading about the Yamas and Niyamas about ego mind and about the idea of “true self” 

I can’t describe the feeling after reading these texts as anything other than 'it felt Like I was coming home.'

It all made perfect sense to my heart and my head and that was how I fell in love with yoga. From then on I was hooked. Most people find the physical side of Asana first, but for me it was the spiritual and philosophical side as that was what I was ready for. 

The teaching of yoga philosophy remind me greatly of some of the CBT therapy I have had in my past as does the practice of mindfulness. 

In recovering from an ED the sufferer is encouraged to separate out from the persona or voice that they hear. A name, label or characteristic is often used to describe the eating disorder and this was where I made connections with yoga. 

Yoga refers to the critical mind, the comparative mind, the attached mind as ego. This mind in my head was the voice of my eating disorder. Both voices had the same intention; to make me feel rubbish and distract me from my present. 

In practising yoga either through meditation or Asana, my cognitive ability to separate out from the old destructive voice of my past grew stronger and stronger and is the main reason why today, 3 years on, I am not only the healthiest me I’ve ever been but also the freest! 

If you come to yoga with an open mind, it has the beautiful ability to completely change your life and heal your world in so many ways. Yoga's power runs far deeper than making shapes on a mat, if you let it into your life wholeheartedly it has the power to completely save your life 

Esther x 

Here are my top 3 tips to recognising your ego voice on or off the mat 

1 - In yoga class - when you’re in a pose and suddenly you feel the urge to look around you to check out what the other students are doing; that is ego. By taking your eyes off your practice and your present you are slipping into the realm of ego wanting to see what others are doing and who is doing it better.

2- In class or self practice when you are attempting an inversion or balance and can’t quite get it today so you feel frustrated, cheated maybe, annoyed st yourself, embarrassed, or insecure that others will judge you, that is your ego. Accepting where you are today and not being attached to mastering a pose or not is free mind. 

3-Scrolling through social media you begin to think that your life isn’t as good as someone else’s, you begin to criticise yourself, your life, and make unkind judgements on yourself - that is ego. Ego loves to compare because comparison is an emotion that easily takes away joy and ego likes the joyless life. Ego likes to measure, condition and compare ego doesn’t like acceptance and self compassion. 

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