Recently, I spent the month in Asheville, North Carolina. I completed a 3 week yoga teacher training immersion at the Asheville Yoga Center, which is pretty darned cool.
Not only did I learn about yoga during this training, but it also kicked my eating disorder in the ass. I got an education of the first order on life and being in it, and the more I learned, the quieter the disorder became. Here are 10 things my eating disorder learned in the training, punctuated with illustration of all of the hairstyle calamities I experienced while doing yoga. :-)
Yogis can still enjoy dessert.
We only had an hour off for lunch each day, so we didn't go far from the classroom. Most people either ate in our classroom and just hung out during the break, or went across the street to Greenlife (Whole foods in Asheville) to get food.
While some of the yogis were eating quinoa and black beans during their lunch break, most of them just ate, well, normal food. Soup and half a sandwich. A salad and some chicken from the hot bar at Greenlife. One day, someone even came back with a bag from Chik fil A. And--yes, it's true--many of them even ate dessert. Myself included. Even if you're studying yoga, you still need joy.
Strength comes in all shapes and sizes.
I'll be honest: on my first day of yoga school I did a quick visual scan of the body types in the room. I felt scared that if there was someone super skinny in the class, it would be triggering to me.
At first, I was simply glad that there was nobody scary-skinny in the class, because I'll be honest: that could have been triggering to me. But as I looked around, I was delighted to see that there were all sorts of shapes and sizes, from a tall, willowy girl to a solid, strong girl who had strongly defined muscles, to even a really muscle-bound guy. It was refreshing to see that all sorts of body types could have yoga in common.
You don't have to be able to do a handstand.
Before my program started, my biggest fears were that everyone would be vegan or gluten-free, and that everyone else but me would be able to do a handstand.
I couldn't have been much further off from the truth. Yes, I'm sure there were vegans, but plenty of the people were pretty good and occasionally mischievious eaters, as noted above. And as for the handstand thing, yes, some people could do it, but most needed a wall or at least some help.
The fact was, everyone was at a different physical level and we all needed work on different things.
It's OK for someone else to be the best at something.
I'm more competitive than you. Even if I can't do something better than you, I want to be able to do it better than you.
This was one of the hardest things to let go in yoga school. Because I was not the best at everything. And quite frankly, when viewing my classmates effortlessly go into full locust pose or scorpion pose NOT against the wall, I had to face the fact that even if I tried every single day of my life, I might not ever be better than them at these poses.
But then at the same time, perhaps there were poses I could do that they felt the same about.
The fact is this: it's OK for someone else to be the best at something. Or even to be good at something. Even if I never get into full locust pose, I can still be inspired by my classmate and know that great things are possible. And maybe I can do the same for him with my oversplits.
Be willing to see and be seen.
One of the scariest things we did at yoga school was not a headstand or arm balance. It was partner yoga in which part of the pose was to look into your partner's eyes. Think it sounds easy? Try it with someone you don't know all that well. It's incredibly intimate and vulnerable.
Looking into someone's eyes makes you feel "seen" and you "see" them, too. I held hands in a pose with a classmate and looked into her eyes for what felt like 10 minutes but was probably 30 seconds. I didn't cry, but afterward I felt tears in my eyes. I was seen. I exist. What an incredible thing.
Have an open heart.
What does the world feel like to someone approaching it with an open heart? I think it's like how the world looks when you get a new glasses prescription: everything is amazingly sharp. You can see every little detail of every little leaf on that tree! Wow!
Yet at the same time, that crisp, clear world has a lot of hard edges. When you feel more, it goes both ways: you feel the highs higher, and the lows lower. Things hurt sometimes. Having an open heart doesn't mean you'll never be hurt, but it does mean that you are feeling things in an authentic way, and not shutting yourself out to the possibility of feeling anything. If you shut your heart, you don't just miss out on the bad times--you miss out on the good times, too.
Everyone smells bad.
I always assume the worst about myself. If I smell BO in a yoga studio, even if I've just showered, I always assume it must be me that is exuding the offending odor.
During one partner exercise, I got so paranoid about how I smelled that I exused myself to put on more deodorant.
But then, not too long later, someone else was joking about how they smelled bad. And I realized it was true--it was them, not me. Not only was this liberating in that it wasn't me, but in that other people can smell bad too, and it is just something that happens in the world. It's not desirable, perhaps, but it is ok.
It's OK to chew with your mouth open sometimes.
At one point during the yoga training, the owner of a center came to give us a talk. During the talk, this awesome and inspiring lady took out an apple and took a big bite. And then kept on talking. We could see bits of apple in her mouth. After she swallowed, she joked about it.
This was a powerful moment to me. In a previous romantic relationship, my partner would often say I was "disgusting" for talking with food in my mouth. This hurt, because usually when I talk with food in my mouth it's because I have an idea or thought I am so excited about sharing that it needs to come out, food in mouth or no. It's an innocent violation of manners, in my opinion. And his ridiculing me not only made me feel bad about my manners, but bad about my ideas.
No, I'm not saying everyone should commence chewing with their mouths open, especially at restaurants. But it's not the end of the world, and if you have a great idea, sometimes it's ok to share, even while there are bits of apple in your mouth.
Regular mealtimes with others are a good thing.
During the training, we had a strict but regular schedule: 8am til 5pm, with a 1-hour lunch break. For my eating schedule, this meant I basically had to stick to certain mealtimes: 7:00 or so for breakfast, noon for lunch, and dinner after yoga, usually 6 or maybe 7 if I stayed after the training for a studio yoga class. I thought this would lead to compulsions, but for me, it was a good thing. Part of the "good thing" was that I was frequently sharing meals with others, which always makes me feel more "normal", and makes me less likely to skip eating (especially lunch) altogether, which I can still sometimes do.
Everyone is not ok. And it's OK.
I often feel like other people are more "OK" than me--that they are all walking around with their shit together, whereas I am feeling turmoil and uncertainty at all times. The fact that I'm the one who doesn't have a clue makes me want to hide it, and the whole thing alienates me from others.
Well, guess what. If I learned anything over my immersion, it's that people are NOT ok. People were crying over heartbreaks, whimpering over period cramps, worrying about every little thing, complaining about not knowing what to do about the state of their career or where they wanted to live.
I'm not saying it's awesome that people experience confusion or fear, but I am saying that it's more common than you might think. Now, I feel better able to classify myself as "not ok...just like everyone else." And maybe that's OK.
To see how I treated myself during yoga training, visit this CakeSpy post.