Image: @brookecagleI sometimes think of an eating disorder as a “bad guy” that has kidnapped the very best parts of you. The strong hold of this bad guy is your thoughts, or “ED head”, as it is called in my office. The meanest of these limiting and paralyzing thoughts go something like this: “I am scared. I am not enough. I am separate; different from all the rest.”
You may find this hard to believe, but you have what it takes to break free! Yoga and somatic mediation are powerful practices to liberate you from the strong pull of “ED head” habitual thoughts. The way out of this thinking is to get into your body and actually experience your present moment. Getting into your body brings you back to your best self, your true self. When you wake up to your body, your thoughts go something like this: I am connected. I am curious. I am compassionate.
You have what it takes to become embodied and awake in your present moment. You don’t have to look like the cover of the Yoga Journal or be able to do a headstand. If you can breathe, you can do this. You can’t mess this up or do it wrong. I know that “ED head” can feel like you are caught in a riptide, but as you practice (and this is a practice) you will notice that it becomes easier to free yourself.
Here are three simple and accessible somatic practices that you can do anytime you notice the distorted thoughts and fears of your eating disorder pulling you under:
When you are feeling isolated and trapped in “ED head”, it’s time to connect with your body. You can do this seated, standing, or lying down. You may want to close your eyes or lower your gaze to decrease the distraction around you. As you practice more, you will find that you are able to do this with your eyes open. Simply begin to feel your feet. If you would like to take your shoes off, allowing more direct contact with the surface beneath you, that is fine. Become interested in the places that your feet may feel cool or warm. Notice the places that your shoes may be pinching or feeling tight.
Now begin to find where you feel your breath. It is easiest to feel your breath in your nostrils or perhaps the soft movement of air just above your upper lip. You may also notice the rise and fall of your chest or belly. Placing your hands over your heart and your belly will help. Taking your time, allow yourself to feel held and supported here by the ground or chair or surface beneath you. Allow yourself to sink into this connection with your body and your breath. If you find yourself thinking once again, simply bring yourself back to your breath. Be reminded that it is the nature of the human mind to think. You are not doing anything wrong. Simply connect again to your breath and the sensations in your feet.
When you are feeling chased down the rabbit hole of your eating disorder thoughts it is time to shift your perspective. Getting curious about your experience in the present moment allows you to find a way out. An accessible way to get out of this tight spot and expand your perception is through taking an inventory of your senses.
- What are you SEEING right now? Become curious about your surroundings-what are the colors, the shapes, the textures of the objects in your sight?
- What are you HEARING right now? You may want to close your eyes or lower your gaze and begin to notice any sounds that you are able to hear both near and as far away as possible
- What do you SMELL right now? Take several deep breaths and see if there are any subtle aromas for you to become curious about.
- What are you TOUCHING right now? Allow yourself to explore all of the possible surfaces around you. You may simply begin with noticing the feeling of the air on your skin or the touch of your clothes. Explore the surface of your device, a notebook, the temperature of your mug or water bottle. Allow yourself to genuinely discover, no matter how silly it may seem at first.
- What do you TASTE right now? Even if you are not actually eating anything at the moment, become curious about the tastes inside your mouth. Again, you may want to close your eyes or lower your gaze to decrease outside stimulation. Open and close your mouth so that your jaw will release and relax. Invite your tongue to drop away from the roof of your mouth. Notice any taste sensation available to you.
It is likely that you are much more present now and perhaps feeling calmer. This is a good time to say to yourself, “I am enough, in this moment, just as I am.”
Eating Disorder thoughts are so horribly judgmental. When you notice this mean tone in the way your self-talk, try this simple self-compassion break developed by Kristen Neff, Ph.D. There are 3 basic steps:
- Notice and acknowledge that you are struggling, worrying, or feeling uncomfortable. Bring awareness to the fact that you are suffering using your own words, such as “This is really hard.”
- Remember that all humans suffer. You are not alone. Suffering is a part of life –this is not a problem. You are not a problem.
- Tell yourself, “May I be kind to myself in this moment”. Perhaps even place you hand over your heart or any other particular place of concern on your body. Allow yourself to receive your own care and kindness. Again, find your own words just as you would speak to a dear friend. “You are going to be okay, darling.”
Remember that all humans suffer. You are not alone. Suffering is a part of life –this is not a problem. You are not a problem.
As you play with these practices, allow yourself to treat this as an experiment. You can’t mess this up or get it wrong! Simply allow yourself to become curious. What do you notice? Are there any tiny shifts that you feel? Please give yourself the chance to simply receive your own attention with kindness.
My hope is that these practices bring you feelings of connection, curiosity, and compassion. My intention with these practices is that you may feel less scared, self-conscious, and separate.