For my entire life, I have been at war.
I survived abuse and trauma, beginning in my early childhood. Rather than fighting back, I turned the battle inwards. I figured I deserved what I got, or was simply born “bad” and had to be punished.
I tried to destroy myself, plunging head-first into the world of anorexia. I punished my body by withholding food, and pushed it to its limits through exercise. As my body shut down, so did my mind. I successfully numbed away all feelings and memories of the past. I was dying. Something had to change.
I learned how to eat again, mechanically and robotically. I had no connection to food, or anything I did. I answered questions about how I felt, what I wanted, or who I was with a sullen, “I don’t know.” Someone suggested that yoga would help me reconnect. I was sceptical, but figured it couldn’t hurt.
After my first few yoga classes, I realized that my body was trying to talk to me. If I listened to it, I could tell if I had gone too far, or could go a little deeper; if I needed to flow, or rest in child’s pose. Different poses could evoke different emotions. The body I had worked so hard to shut down was waking up.
My mind was waking up as well. I started to see myself as a whole person – not just a body, but a mind and a soul, too. As I learned to let go of the tension in my body and breathe into a pose. I learned to let go of the unnecessary tension in my mind so I could breathe in life. I learned to stay present and focussed on my mat, and that awareness followed me into the world. I became an observer, not a judge of my thoughts, and started to make peace with who I was.
It wasn’t an easy path. As I let my body and mind talk to me, they told me things I didn’t want to hear. I was forced to face myself and my demons on a very real level, fully present, without any of my coping mechanisms to numb me out. It would have been easy to fall back into old patterns, but an awakening mind will not be so easily silenced. I had learned how to breathe through challenging postures, and it taught me that I could use that same breath to get through challenging situations in life.
The war isn’t over. I still struggle, but that struggle doesn’t define my life. A true warrior doesn’t spend her whole life fighting; she knows when it’s time to fight, and when it’s time to let go. She is connected, and aware, but not guarded. Yoga has awakened the true warrior in me, and I am battling on to freedom.
Kelly Boaz began studying at The Institute of Holistic Nutrition after battling her way back from an eating disorder. She founded Fearless Nutrition as a way to help everyone to overcome their fear of food, regardless of their issues surrounding it. She is also an active yogini, and is on the board of directors for the Toronto not-for-profit Yoga Unite. She hopes that, by sharing her story, she can inspire others to find health and freedom in their own lives.