Jennifer Kreatsoulas, PhD, founder of Chime Yoga Therapy, is a yoga therapist specializing in eating disorders. Recovered herself, Jennifer is exceedingly passionate about helping others connect with their natural gift of resilience through yoga. In addition to her private practice, Jennifer is also a yoga therapist at the Monte Nido Eating Disorder Center of Philadelphia. In her writing, Jennifer tells of the power of yoga in eating disorder recovery.
The other day I had the powerful experience of leading four women through a yoga practice at a retreat. The women had come together to strengthen their eating disorder recovery journey. I was inspired by their grit and dedication. After all, attending a retreat is voluntary. These individuals participated purely out of choice, knowing they were going to do some seriously hard work.
With yoga mats, grounding stones, and paper and pens, we set off to share a yoga experience. I began by asking the women to write down a word that described how they wanted to feel that day. Words like “thin,” “empty,” “numb,” or other eating disorder associations were off limits. This exercise was about imagining another way of feeling and drawing out their “healthy voice.”
As we flowed in and out of poses, I cued the women to recall the word they wrote down. I asked them to hold their word in their mind as we breathed, balanced, twisted, folded, backbended, and inverted.
At the end of the practice, I asked the women to give their word a pose. You see, I believe we can wire in a feeling that we want to cultivate through our bodies. In other words, we can embody a feeling by creating a pose that expresses that very feeling. For example, in the same way that hunched shoulders, clenched hands, and a frown can embody (and even create) a sense of depression, anxiety, or loneliness, an open stance, with feet firm on the floor and shoulders back (like mountain pose) can embody a sense of grounding or confidence. We can call on a pose to literally shift our mood, thoughts, and demeanor. This is a powerful tool I’ve been practicing in my own healing journey.
Certainly, a pose isn’t a permanent fix, but when done with purpose, strong intention, and often, yoga poses can be a powerful way to cultivate the qualities we want to create more of in our recovery and life in general.
I was so impressed and inspired by how willing and open the women were to this exercise. For one woman, “peaceful” took the form of tree pose, and for another woman this quality was felt in mountain pose. Half moon pose represented “alive” for another participant. All five of us were smiling by the time we finished sharing. The room was lighter, and my perception was that the women felt lighter in their bodies as well.
It was quite a moment for me to watch the women combine their word with a pose. In fact, one of them brilliantly named the exercise “Power Pose.” How perfect, right? When we realize that we can interrupt an eating disorder thought or behavior simply with a word and a pose, we have gained immense power. We show ourselves that the very thing that we believe controls us can be quieted and even conquered, if even just for a moment. That single moment is the gateway to many, many more moments one word and one pose at a time.
I invite you to discover your Power Pose for today. First, ask yourself how you want to feel today. Next, imagine a shape that connects you to that quality. You don’t need to be in a “real” yoga pose either. Just simply shift into a shape that takes you out of the eating disorder slump (in mind and body) and into a more positive space.
There’s no right or wrong. Feel your way into your Power Pose. Get used to having the power again.
Many thanks and blessings to those four special women for gifting me with the beautiful idea of Power Pose and sharing their yoga practice with me. Many thanks and blessings to you, too, for taking the time to read this post and opening your mind and heart to healing.
For more information about Oliver-Pyatt Centers, Clementine adolescent treatment programs and Monte Nido, please call 866.511.HEAL (4325), visit our website, subscribe to our blog, and connect with us on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram.
I am so honored to host a brief Curvy Yoga session at the 2016 Alliance for Eating Disorders Awareness Walk in Boca Raton, Florida this Saturday morning! Many people have been intrigued by the idea of “curvy yoga” and what that means, so let me explain. Curvy Yoga is a brand created by yoga teacher Anna Guest-Jelley out of Nashville, TN to help make yoga body positive and accessible to all bodies, regardless of shape, size, age, ability or experience level. So many people have assumptions about yoga with one of the strongest being that yoga is not available to them in their body type.
Although I am an advocate for body positivity and am a clinician working with eating disorders, I did not go to Anna’s yoga teacher training to bring it to my clients. I actually went to Anna’s yoga teacher training for myself, for personal growth and as a four part retreat. However, once I was done with the training experience, I knew I could not keep this awesomeness that is Curvy Yoga underwraps and am happy to be bringing it to the South Florida community. Currently, I do private one-on-one and small group yoga sessions, so I can be more attuned to the needs of the people I am teaching; creating modifications that feel right to that person as they connect with their body. Even though the Alliance walk yoga session will be a large group and won’t lend itself to as much individual support, my hope is that it will still convey the ideals of non-competitiveness (including with oneself), tuning inward to see what feels good and practicing self-compassion. As Anna taught me, yoga can be “no pain, no pain”.
The Alliance for Eating Disorder Awareness is hosting their annual walk this Saturday, February 27th celebrating everyBody: a walk for eating disorders awareness in Boca Raton. Participation can be registering to walk or making a donation. If you would like to join our team, please visit here and make sure to stop by the OPC booth and participate in a Curvy Yoga session with Karin Lawson after the walk.
For more information about Dr. Karin Lawson, Curvy Yoga and her private practice visit here:
For more information about Oliver-Pyatt Centers and Clementine adolescent treatment programs, please call 866.511.HEAL (4325), visit our website, subscribe to our blog, and connect with us on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram.
Yoga instructor Carly Orshan, MA, E-RYT200, RCYT shares some of the many benefits of yoga practice for any individual including practitioners, professionals, and those struggling with eating disorders. For a previous piece written by Carly exploring the benefits of mindful movement and awareness through the practice of yoga visit here.
The physical, mental and emotional connection made during yoga helps participants experience mindfulness; cultivating the quality of being awake, present and accepting of this moment’s experience. Yoga and the practice of mindfulness can be effective tools to restore imbalances in both the body and the mind that often occur with eating disorders.
The physical postures in yoga help bring everything back to a place of equilibrium. This is particularly relevant with helping the body become a stress-free environment to house healing and recovery.
The mental benefits of yoga help participants become aware of breathing, how they move and how they think. By becoming more aware, yoga creates opportunities for participants to challenge negative mental patterns around body image. Being on the mat and moving around can help each individual realize exactly what their body is doing for them each day – and what it is capable of. This interaction with the body can increase the desire to honor the self.
Emotionally, yoga helps to improve participants on an energetic level. It allows participants to unblock and unlock emotional baggage stored within them. The physical movements and mental experience rooting in the moment react with the nervous system, which releases the muscles and the constant mind-chatter that is often present in day to day life. This mindful awareness can lift participants up and elevate their experience.
For more information about Oliver-Pyatt Centers and the recently expanded Clementine Adolescent Treatment Program please call 866.511.HEAL (4325), visit our website, subscribe to our blog, and connect with us on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram.
Yoga instructor Carly Orshan, MA, E-RYT200, RCYT explores the benefits of mindful movement and awareness through the practice of yoga.
Take a second to tune in and notice how you are feeling in this very moment. Take a breath in. Take a breath out. Breathe at a normal pace and become aware of the rhythm you are creating. Notice what you are experiencing in this moment. What sounds do you hear? What physical sensations come up? What thoughts are surfacing for you? Notice these elements surrounding you and within you – without trying to do anything about it.
You are participating in a mindful activity.
Mindfulness is maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and the surrounding environment. Yoga is a useful tool to help individuals achieve mindfulness and become aware of the present moment through physical, mental, and emotional engagement. Anyone can use mindfulness to help them listen to their inner voice and find better balance within themselves. Mindfulness is a practice that helps individuals learn how to better engage with themselves, interact with others, and learn how to tackle life’s hiccups with grace and awareness. However, mindful yoga can be particularly useful for individuals struggling with eating disorders that often experience negative body image and typically have difficulties nurturing and embracing themselves in nonjudgmental ways.
Through the past three years, I have witnessed individuals engage with mindfulness each time I walk into Oliver-Pyatt Centers to lead a yoga class. There is often a shift that occurs for the women when they step on their mats. This transition may not be obvious to many or even to the participant herself, but it is there. Although it doesn’t show each class for every person, I have noticed that an emotional metamorphosis is revealed when the participant is able to truly connect with her inner self and release other distractions. By tuning in and honoring the present moment this subtle transformation emerges with a beautiful smile upon her face. Even though she may not see it or feel as she is moving and breathing through the class, I do. It is this realization that makes the moment equally compelling for the instructor.
In each class, we begin by closing our eyes, taking a deep breath and setting an intention. In Sanskrit, intentions are called sankalpas, which means our heart’s deepest longings. We use intentions as a way to leverage the power of the practice and the meditative feeling that comes along with it to create movement in a positive direction. Setting intentions helps participants shift their mentality from engaging in an “exercise” event to one that is a mindful practice of movement by turning inward, to their heart’s center. By setting intentions we establish an intimacy with our own inner essence – the quiet voice of our inner self that speaks in terms of openness, love, silence, knowingness, and kindness. Some intentions often prompted during class that I love are:
“To treat myself with love and respect.”
“To have compassion and self-acceptance.”
“To be more open-hearted, despite being hurt in the past.”
“To focus on being present by listening to my breath.”
“To cultivate happiness, experience peace, and honor my true self.”
To connect to our heart’s highest intention, we simply need to turn inward. This process facilitates a mindful experience and reaffirms the physical, mental and emotional gift that yoga can bring to each individual. Mindful based yoga is a powerful practice to bring about balance, smiles and encourage healing.