Asana: Could you share with us the experience of your binge eating disorder? How was your life and mood being affected by it?
Dana: Where to begin. Well, I think my eating disorder started when I was about 10, but I didn’t recognize that I had one until I was 21 or so. Looking back, it’s so obvious to me now that I had one, but I was in such denial it was just a way of life for me. I was secretive about it, so nobody else really knew. On top of the secrecy, eating disorders are simply taboo topics, especially binge eating. I see now that I used food as a response to everything in my life.
Every stressor, every frustration, every negative thought I ever had about myself or anybody else… I ate about it. Now that I know myself well, it makes perfect sense to me that this happened. I always felt the need to be strong and independent.
I’ve never been good at asking for help. So instead of crying out, I ate. And really, my weight gain was my cry for help, and people noticed the physical change, but they didn’t know I was hurting. It progressed from age 10 on, and started getting particularly bad towards late middle school and throughout high school. I hit my heaviest point my freshman year of college, and I was fed up. Not just with my body, but everything in my life. I was depressed, had an eating disorder, and was just starting to recognize it. That breaking point was the first step towards the big shift in my life.
Asana: You had successfully lost some weight through diets and exercises but surprisingly did not feel happier. Why?
Dana: I cycled through losing and gaining weight for years. I tried everything imaginable. I had personal trainings, I went to fat camp, I did Weight Watcher about a 1000 times. I could lose the weight, but I always, always gained it back. Every time I did, I just got mad at myself. I felt so weak and alone, and couldn’t understand why I couldn’t just eat “normally” like everybody else or have a “normal” body.
When I hit my heaviest weight in college, I started to really work towards losing weight. I stuck with it that time, and I was hitting the gym regularly for about a year. I also started eating healthier, but still hadn’t really acknowledged my eating disorder. Fast forward a year and half later and I had lost almost 100 pounds, and somehow I still felt the same. I still hated my body, I still felt miserable, in fact I think I felt worse because I had such high expectations for how I would feel.
When I started practicing yoga, sort of by chance, I began to see myself in a way I never did before. Eventually I realized that the problem was never external, it was never my weight. It was always internal, and that’s what needed to shift.
Dana: My first yoga class was not fun. I did not enjoy it, it was hard, everybody made everything look easy and I felt heavy, weak… mostly I felt the same way I felt my entire life (of course). Why did I go back?
Some combination of pride, having an addictive personally, and liking a challenge. In the beginning I wanted so badly to prove everybody wrong, to prove that I could be the fat girl and do a headstand. But as I continued to practice, that changed. It was like little glimmers of light started to seep into my practice. I started seeing the space for possibility, and eventually I started to see my worth as something far beyond my body. Now, 2 years later, I continue to practice because I know my worth. I know I’m worthy and deserving of time for self-care.
I’m worthy of time to explore my potential. I’m worthy of happiness. Believing that from an unshakable place of truth – that is what keeps me coming back to the mat.
Asana: Were there any body limitations restraining you in the beginning of yoga practice? And how did you overcome them?
Dana: No. I mean, I thought there were, but now I know limitations simply don’t exist in the body. I felt like my body was in my way my entire life and it was no different when I started practicing. It would be easy to find excuses, to avoid certain poses because I have a belly in the way, thighs that make binds tricky, breasts that are constantly falling in my face and suffocating me… etc. But as I continued to practice, I started to prove myself wrong. The poses I thought were not for me started to be for me. All I had to do was continue to show up and try without expectation. Once I got to a place where I could believe the “I can” with more sincerity than the “I can’t,” a lot changed.
Dana: I see myself with love now. Before, my body could have looked like anything and I probably would have continued to hate it. Now, I see my body as strong and capable, because I know am from the inside, out. I see myself as beautiful because I feel beautiful. A shift in perspective will determine and can greatly shift your reality.
Asana: What precaution advice would you give to bigger size people when they approach yoga?
Dana: Hmm… I probably wouldn’t give any, honestly. Maybe that people are likely to look at you if you go to a class. If I’m in a situation where people don’t know me from my social media accounts or otherwise, I get looks. People will assume you don’t know what you’re doing, they’ll assume you’re a beginner, that you absolutely need modifications or props. Maybe those things are true, maybe they’re not, but people will see from what they assume. So it’s not precautionary, but my advice would be to walk into class loud and proud, know that you’re there for you, and don’t worry about any funny looks that come your way. They are reflections of the people giving them to you, not you yourself. I promise.
Asana: What is the definition of a beautiful person to you?
Dana: Someone with a kind heart and a bright light to shine.
Asana: There are people who leave awful and mean comments to you, how do you deal with them?
Dana: I ignore them. When I first started getting them they bothered me a bit because I took them personally, and I wasn’t as secure as I am now. Now I know that none of those comments have anything to do with me. I’ve been called every name imaginable, I’ve heard it all. At this point words really can’t break me. I know myself. I know my worth, I know my message is honest and genuine and kind and important. As long as I’m being authentic, the naysayers can continue to sing. I’m not for everyone and that’s fine with me.
Asana: What is your message through your practice to the yoga community?
Dana: My message is one of self-love. It’s about knowing your worth so innately that you will never hesitate to show up for yourself. I believe a yoga practice is available to everybody willing to practice. I believe that limitations exist in the mind, not in the body. I believe that yoga can truly change your life if you give to it humbly, fearlessly, and without expectation.
Asana: While it’s said that yoga is for everybody not all Asanas are for everyone, do you agree?
Dana: Not really. I mean, aside from health conditions or specific contraindications, I think anybody can practice any asana. Will every pose happen for every person? I don’t know, probably not, but who cares? Maybe the pose comes right now, maybe after 10 years of practice, maybe never. The point is that you try, and you try without ever caring whether or not you do the pose. The goal is to show up for yourself, not to do a handstand. Every asana is built off another. There is always a place to practice from. What matters is that you listen to your body, stay safe in your practice, and never give up.
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