In my 20+ years of navigating the highs and lows of recovery from anorexia, yoga has been an essential and constant tool that's facilitated a great deal of my healing. I taught yoga for 7 years before getting married, starting a career, and having children. With the beautiful gift of motherhood also came a whirlwind of stress, endless exhaustion, a severe eating disorder relapse, and depression. As I frantically tried to balance being the perfect mother, wife, and professional, my yoga practice fell away. I knew I needed help when someone once asked me what I enjoy doing and I literally could not respond. My brain searched for an answer, but there were no words, descriptions, or memories. In that moment, I felt empty, blank, and unsure if I would ever recover.
It became clear to me how entirely disconnected I was from my passions—those essential things big and small that ring true with who I am at my core. For so long I believed I had no choice but to run myself into the ground, that I had to put off attending to my needs until my girls went to college. The reality was I had no choice because I was ensnared in self-imposed limitations. Possibilities or alternatives were no where to be found, or so I believed.Since then, I have come to believe that we have options, even when we tell ourselves we do not. I have also come to understand that my wellness is directly related to my ability to stay connected to my passions (yoga, writing, reading, and more). Like you, my life is extremely busy, but I have learned how to practice self-care in small but consistent ways. I often call on my network of support for guidance as I continue to find balance between caring for others and caring for myself. When I can strike that balance, I more fully enjoy my life with my husband and two daughters.
I have come to understand that an eating disorder is like a silent temper tantrum, a quiet way to express unhappiness, sadness, anger, hurt, pain, and disappointment. Recovery is the process of learning how to use our voices to express feelings and emotions. This is a tall order, as the daily demands of life are relentless. My recovery journey, therefore, has been about learning how to stay connected with my voice and body and trust that I have choices, that I am in charge of my life.
The gift of my eating disorder relapse is how it reignited my yoga practice. Yoga teaches me how to connect from the inside out. I rest my mind on my breath as I embody the characteristics that are essential to my ability to sustain a well-supported recovery. I sense my strength and confidence in warrior poses, courage in wheel pose, grace in dancer’s pose, openness in triangle pose, peace in hero’s pose, and support in child’s pose. I fold and surrender, reach and grow, twist and energize. For me, this is what freedom feels like.
My relapse also empowered me to change the direction of my career. I left my job as a medical writer, returned to teaching yoga, committed to a 3-year yoga therapy training program, and launched Yoga for Eating Disorders (formerly known as Chime Yoga Therapy). Besides raising my children, I believe there is nothing more important I can do with my life than to help others reconnect with their bodies and feel empowered in their lives.
Because of my personal experience with an eating disorder, I am extremely passionate about helping others who struggle with their bodies find peace of mind with yoga and mindfulness practices. Yoga is not a cure, and it is not a replacement for traditional forms of support and therapy, but it can be a powerful tool to navigate the daily challenges of recovery from anorexia, bulimia, binge eating disorder, and other forms of the disease and create new, lasting patterns and beliefs that facilitate wellness, wholeness, and vitality for life.
Jennifer Kreatsoulas, Ph.d.