I’m so happy to have Jennifer Kreatsoulas, PhD, guest blogging on Yoga and Recovery! Read on to discover how yoga can be a different kind (it has kindness) of mirror than the judge-ing one of the Eating Disorder:
The yoga mat is commonly described as a mirror that reflects our reactions, habits, strengths, and weaknesses. As the metaphor goes, what shows up in our lives plays out on our yoga mats.
For a long time I resisted this metaphor. After all, mirrors could never ever offer the safety, solace, and freedom that my yoga mat provides. My mat is home base, a playground for creative and physical expression. When I am on my yoga mat, I tend to forget I have an eating disorder. On my mat, I am me, just me. That other part, the illness and tireless efforts of recovery, is quiet. My mind and body are at peace.
Mirrors, in comparison, have been a source of angst and duplicity. More times than not I stared back at a self filled with doubt, unease, and disgust. Amid all the panicked body checking and countless wardrobe changes the mirror could never provide comfort. It only fed my irrational need to scrutinize my body nearly to death.
Years of yoga and recovery have both fostered in me a steadfast practice of svadhyaya, the Sanskrit term for self-study, which means turning inward and observing your actions, reactions, emotions, and habits. From the awareness born out of self-study we can tap into insights about our relationships with ourselves and others. In this sense, the self-study we do on our yoga mats is deep, true reflection, making our mats figurative mirrors. The body scrutiny we do in front of the mirror, however, is not reflection; it’s compulsion and self-mutiny.
In my experience, self-study can help us redefine our relationship with the mirror–yes, that very same mirror that has appeared to be the enemy all this time. As we stand in front of the mirror we have a ripe opportunity for self-study instead of body-scrutiny. Our habit is to despise, disdain, and be cruel to ourselves, but if we can catch ourselves body checking or spiraling into self loathing, we can than begin to study those responses. In other words, we can literally push pause on these highly charged habits (or rituals) and reflect on what beliefs are driving those behaviors.
Some questions to jumpstart your self-study might be
- Why am I obsessing about my body right now?
- What is this body checking really about?
- Why do I feel “X” right now?
- What does berating myself in front of the mirror get me?
- How can I be more kind to myself?
Once we pull back from the reflection in the mirror and turn inward, we neutralize the mirror and it’s power over us. We literally turn away from that version of our reflection. We shift away from body-scrutiny and practice self-study, and we re plenty strong to handle what we learn about ourselves.
Jennifer Kreatsoulas, PhD, the founder of Chime, is a yoga therapist specializing in eating disorders. Her program Resilience Yoga for Eating Disorders™ aims to help individuals
with navigate the daily challenges of recovery with yoga. Jennifer is also a yoga therapist at Monte Nido Philadelphia, a treatment center for eating disorders. Her ultimate goals in life are to be a positive role model for her daughters and to teach them that anything is possible when we ring true (Chime) with who we are at our core and live with strong intention.