How Yoga Reaffirmed My Inner Strength
By Hannah Latimer-Snell, Guest Contributor
In Fall of 2013 I started my first semester at University. I was so excited to get a fresh start in a new place surrounded by new people. On the outside I was ready for a great year but on the inside I was crumbling. Everyday was a challenge. Each moment was spent obsessing over what I should and shouldn’t eat or how much to exercise. I was tired all the time but was barely sleeping.
Halfway through the semester I was given an ultimatum from my University; go to residential treatment or leave University. Back then, University was everything to me. I would work all night in order to get the A+ that I thought would make me feel worthy. So to be told that I could lose the one thing that I knew I was good at was terrifying.
The week of Thanksgiving I packed a bag and moved into Cambridge Eating Disorder Center. I spent a month there before moving back to Oregon to start treatment with Monte Nido, Eugene. In treatment, I worked through my history, I learned how to trust my hunger and to speak up for what I wanted and needed. Treatment helped me identify my triggers and learn strategies to work through them.
Throughout my entire recovery process yoga played a part in helping me learn how to connect with my body. I have practiced yoga for roughly five years. I started practicing yoga before my life was consumed by my eating disorder. At the start, I used yoga as a stress reliever. I was a very anxious child, still an anxious person, and yoga taught me how to control my breathing and take a step back from the anxiety of the day.
But with my eating disorder brewing inside me it was easyto manipulate yoga and turn it into another way to over exercise. When you just look at yoga as a way to lose weight or get fit you lose the spiritual part of it which I would argue is the most important part.
When you practice yoga there are times where you have to relinquish control and then rein it back in. You learn to be present and to breathe through the moment. In many ways yoga is a great form of meditation. But with a constant stream of comparison, self-judgment and shame it loses that meditative element.
When I got back to Eugene, after spending the semester at University and in residential, I was finally able to see yoga in a new light. I started a gentle yoga class. I wasn’t allowed to exercise too much because I was still on a weight gain meal plan. But my treatment team said that a gentle yoga class would be okay.
It was exactly what I needed.
The class took the focus off of weight loss and exercise and moved it onto body awareness and breathe work. It was gentle enough that I didn’t feel exhausted afterwards but I still felt like I had moved my body.
Slowly over time I regained the ability to breathe with my movements and started to gain back some strength. As my mind healed and I started to eat according to what my body needed, yoga taught my body how to be strong. It taught me how to physically support my body. It helped me understand each part of my body and what each part could offer me physically.
I still practice yoga today, but tend to practice in a more personal setting. Each time I practice yoga I set an intention of nonjudgement. My focus is to not judge myself or those around me and to just be. I try to avoid large group classes at gyms because I find them triggering. Instead, I look for meditation-based classes and or practice with friends or on my own.
Through it all, yoga helped me understand what my body was capable of. It reaffirmed my inner strength both physically and spiritually. And it taught me that physical strength is only part of the practice. What really affirms the practice is the mentality behind it.
Hannah Latimer-Snell is a writer, a filmmaker, and an adventurer who travels the world and helps others do so too. She is the founder of Bold Destinations, a travel blog that focuses on helping others cultivate balanced mental health while traveling. Hannah has a degree in International Relations from Portland State University and a background in documentary film and media production. She is dedicated to breaking the stigmas behind mental health and eating disorders and encouraging more people to travel the world.