Guest post by Kelsi Turner, a St. Louis yogi. You can follow Kelsi on her blog, Creating Kelsi.
A few weekends ago, I had the pleasure of attending an outdoor yoga session at Eckert’s Farms. The event was hosted by Yoga Buzz, a non profit that is using yoga as a tool for healing and promoting awareness. They also support programs that are trauma based and meet the needs of the diverse population. I first got wind of the work that Yoga Buzz does by a friend of mine that attended one of their local events. After checking out their website, I saw that they would be in my neck of the woods. I couldn’t pass that opportunity up.
As someone who has struggled with eating disorders, at one point I was only allowed to do yoga as a form of exercise. When I was told this by my doctor and therapist, I was pissed. I remember rolling my eyes and feeling utterly defeated. I wanted to run and do intense cardio, anything to burn the calories and make my eating disorder happy. I thought in order to do yoga one had to be flexible, which I am not. Over the years, I’ve struggled with getting into yoga daily and being disciplined about it. There are times where I feel as if I have to be perfect in the things that I do, and unfortunately, sometimes that includes yoga.
I’ll be honest, walking out onto that field at Eckert’s, I had no idea what to expect. I kinda felt like all eyes would be on me, judging me. I’m not the most flexible and half the time, I have no idea what the heck I’m doing. Arriving on that hot Saturday at May, I was put at ease by our instructor, Elle. She literally had me laughing and feeling as if there was no wrong way for me to screw this up. Elle was super warm, inviting, and had me feeling so relaxed by the time I left at the end of the hour. I had never done yoga in a class setting, much less outdoors surrounded by farmland and a large group of people. I felt really supported and safe as I looked around at all the attendees that morning. There were people from all walks of life. White, black, asian, thin, not thin, male, female, kids, etc. It was really exciting seeing so many diverse people come out to enjoy themselves and relax during an hour of yoga. I felt at ease as Elle told us how there was no way to do yoga wrong. If we needed to modify a pose or take a break, that was okay. I really needed to hear that. Sometimes I get so caught up that if I can’t keep up that I’m weak or something. Although that’s totally not true. What someone else can do in yoga I may not be able to, and that’s okay. We’re all different.
There are moments in my life where I am so stressed out and I feel as if I cannot breathe. My body tenses up and it’s almost as if my airway constricts and I am not taking in as much oxygen as I should. Breath is so important in yoga. I’ll be the first to admit, during a few of the poses I may or may not have stopped breathing. I know, I know. Not good. However, as with anything, practice and time makes perfect. During each breath and move, I was able to release a lot of things I didn’t realize my body was holding on to. Tension, anger, frustration, worry. As the sunlight hit my face and the warm breeze moved over my body, I felt more free than I had felt in a long time, if ever. Any time I felt that I needed a break, I took one. I didn’t beat myself up about it or worried about being seen as weak. I listened to what my body needed, a practice that I need to do more of.
If there’s anything that I have learned lately, it’s that I need to listen to myself more. Pause. Reflect. Plan. Figure out what there is to do about any given situation. Not react so much out of emotion. Remind myself that it’s okay to cry–feel my emotions. Sometimes, it’s okay to literally move those emotions out of my body if need be. That means doing yoga or going for a walk, maybe playing with my nephews out in the backyard. Something to get my body moving and literally step out of any negative emotion or state I may be in. For me personally, I like yoga. Each breath, each movement makes me feel more relaxed. I often end feeling more grounded and peaceful afterwards.
No matter if you’ve struggled with eating disorders, sexual abuse, or some other trauma; body work is important. Movement is healing. There is no right or wrong way to do yoga or heal yourself. Literally every body is different. Yoga has also helped me in terms of my negative body image and reconnecting to myself and who I am. I am very grateful that I have the practice of yoga to do and continue to learn from.
Unlike getting over a cold, abuse will always linger in my life. It’ll have undertones always. Maybe there will be a day when it doesn’t so brightly color my life. I look forward to that day. I’ll be honest, being out there in that field as I relaxed and let yoga transcend me…. I think I shed a bit of that abuse away. Let it out through each movement while being reminded that I am safe and supported by the earth below me, and all those around me. No one knew my story. I was just a girl with a yoga mat looking forward to what the class would teach me.
I look forward to the next one. In the meantime, my healing continues.