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.
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