It has now been five years since I was released from the treatment facility that I was admitted to to help with my eating disorder. It has been five years of recovery. Five years of ups and downs. And five years of feeling thankful that I am where I am now with my progress.
Of course, I have friends that I was in treatment with that are not doing as well as I currently am in terms of their recovery from their eating disorder. Some have been in and out of treatment over the last five years. Some have seen several different therapists, tried dozens of medications, and even gone on exotic self- discovery vacations to countries all in an attempt to break free from the grip of their eating disorder.
So why am I one of the few people out of my treatment group that has actually recovered and stayed healthy after five years so far? I stopped seeing a therapist and taking fancy drugs four years ago, and I have never taken a month trip to go find myself. And yet, I sit here feeling confident that I am free of my eating disorder.
My friends have often asked me "How I did it" and what my "secret" is which had me digging deep to recall what exactly it was that pulled me through those trying times.
I owe a lot of it to Pilates and yoga.
Yup. The things that I was practically forbidden to do when I was in treatment because my therapists thought it would be too triggering for someone like me. I was not allowed to exercise because I was diagnosed as being bulimic not only through food, but also through over exercising. The thing is, I never saw Pilates as yoga as "exercise" however, and I never abused it the way I would abuse spending hours on the elliptical and bike.
So when I was finally released from the hospital, I eased back into "exercise" with Pilates and yoga. I firmly believe that it was the mind-body connection that is required in Pilates and yoga that helped me to really connect to ME. The breath work required in these methodologies helped me to get in tune with my body and really FEEL the movements and stretches.
I enjoyed the reasons for the movements as well as the whys and hows behind them. It was never a form of exercise that I went to to tone this or that. Pilates and yoga have been my go-to since my dancing days. It helps keep my body grounded, centered, and feeling strong. Knowing that certain movements in yoga like forward folds and inversions can help to reduce anxiety and that physical pains in the hip-flexors can be tied to emotional pain, has been an amazing way to really understand what exactly a "mind-body connection" is.
After all of these years, I can finally say that if my body is feeling a bit off and achy, I now know to turn inwards and ask myself " What is really going on here? What am I holding onto? How am I feeling emotionally and where am I carrying that emotion in my body?" It is from asking those questions that I can then begin to move and breathe to allow my body to release and be a little more at peace.
That is not to say that of course we do not all have legitimate pains that can be serious issues such as something like a knee replacement for example, but more in reference to smaller aches and pains like tense shoulders, tight hip-flexors, sore lower backs, and achy necks.
I genuinely believe that if more people attended Pilate and yoga classes for the mental health benefits, they would feel a lot better emotionally and ultimately physically. Maybe part of problem is that in today's world, while we are much more open to accepting talking about mental health, we are still missing the connect of "exercise" and mental health. There are tons of yoga and Pilates studios in San Diego, but how many of them teach something other than the latest glute exercises to make your buns look better?
As a fitness professional, I'm hoping that there begins to be a shift in training that teaches clients what a true "mind-body" connection is. Until then, I will keep fighting the good fight and educating people why they should move and to honor their minds as much as their bodies.
Third Eye Wellness