Tag Archives: Recovery

Give Me The Cure

22 Jul

A very humbling practice started my first full, non-modified practice week back since my hand surgery…reduced to tears during savasana again. I kept waiting for my dog to come over and sniff me or rattle his food bowls commandingly or try to lick me. No dog. No cure. No shot. No pill to take away the shittiness. Now I know why I was practicing so erratically when my father died. I couldn’t handle it. I just keep getting on the mat and honestly, I can’t even tell you why because it feels so horrible emotionally. Just stay here. Hurt. Yoga Chikitsa. Strangely, my flexibility is better and I am less stiff physically. I am puzzled by the lack of physical pain. But emotionally? Hot, gruesome, choking, swampy pain, all in my throat and chest. And meditation is still a non-stop sob fest. I don’t even fight it anymore. I start thinking about how much pain the entire human and animal population feels at any given point in time during a single day on this Earth and it makes me want to implode like a Piscean Black Hole. God, I am so dramatic! I’m laughing at myself as I write this.

Back to the mat and the Slayer Shala of one.

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Plus Sized Yoga: Heavy Musings, and a Middle Finger to Spanx

7 Jun

Dear Tender Readers: Um, *lots* of cursing is about to happen.

You know what comes up if you google “Plus Sized Yoga”? Either ads for clothes or people bashing the idea of there even being such a thing as “Plus Sized Yoga”. People be hatin’ on Plus Sized Yoga.  Like, what will the fat lazy people come up with next? Now they need their own yoga classes? So they can all be fat and lazy together and then go eat Cheetos after class? As a Plus Sized yoga chick  and someone in recovery from an eating disorder (actually, I am a size 14–which makes me too fat for the skinny people and too skinny for the fat people HAHAHA as usual, joke’s on me!), I know there is a need for Plus Sized yoga everything. You need to know how to do adjustments, you need clothes that fit, you need an understanding teacher, you need props, you need to be able to RELATE.  You need dialogue.

And I discovered via the miracle of Google search that people actually search for “Do Fat Vegans Exist?”. Why yes, they do, you ass clown. Oh wait, my SKINNY Italian Greyhound is actually typing this post. No wait, he’s sleeping and being lazy as usual and maintaining his size 0 figure.

I am realizing lately that the ongoing Putting The Ahimsa Oxygen Mask On Myself First Before Trying To Save Any Other Passengers Project is becoming more and more critical. As I continue with my healthy behaviors (eating plants, eating when I am hungry, not abusing food or myself, daily Ashtanga asana practice, walking, prayer, meditation, 12 step meetings, etc.), things progress at their own very slow and organic pace. I am moving toward a body size that is healthy for me and is, in all likelihood, definitely not a size 0. Or even 8. Hell, I’m not even sure if it’s a 12. My old eating disorder voices like to crop up and tell me I am disgusting and lazy and blah blah BLAH, I should be in the gym, I need to not eat carbs, I should be fasting, I need EPHEDRA. Stat.

Then there’s the other side of the coin—people looking at me funny and saying with this worried voice, “Boy, you sure have gotten skinny”. And it makes me feel guilty, like I should apologize for having lost 82 pounds!  No, I am not obese anymore, nor do I think FOR ME that being obese is healthy. Maybe for other people it is OK for their frame and particular body, but for me it was living hell because my body couldn’t take the constant abuse. My knees, back, hips and ankles were in pain 24-7, my arches were collapsing and I couldn’t breathe. Walking 3 city blocks in New York made me feel like the Little Mermaid walking on knives when she suddenly grew legs. I was constantly exhausted and I was fucking miserable. My every waking thought centered around bingeing or purging, and I was full of shame and I was totally batshit crazy.

I still have back fat, dude. I am still overweight for my height, even if I am no longer technically morbidly obese. I don’t ever want to go back to being morbidly obese or even garden-variety obese, but I don’t want to Spanx myself into submission, either. I got more rolls than a Cuban bakery. And what is up with fucking Spanx anyway? Oh you naughty, naughty fat girl—you need a Spanxing! Let’s beat that fat into submission! It’s some sort of perverse clothing BDSM. Fuck that shit. I am not skinny by any stretch of the imagination and it’s OK. Being healthy, accepting myself on a day-to-day basis and making peace with the skin I’m in is a top priority for me more than ever. When I am in downward dog and I look down and see my stomach and thighs in their yoga pants, I really see them today. I am no longer hiding from myself in baggy clothes. I don’t turn away my gaze. Drishti has a whole different meaning when you are a plus sized yogi. My gaze guides my practice of acceptance.

Here’s a round-up of some posts about yoga, body image, plus-sized yoga, veganism and eating disorders that I found to be intriguing and juicy. Some I agree with, some I don’t. It’s all about dialogue:

Danielle Olson on wanting to be a skinny Yoga teacher and the danger of the Beauty Myth within Yoga:

http://bodydivineyoga.wordpress.com/2012/01/10/im-no-skinny-minnie-yoga-teacher-but-oh-how-i-want-to-be/

Amber at Body Positive Yoga on why she quit dieting:

http://bodypositiveyoga.com/why-i-quit-dieting/

One more from Amber on modifications for Sun Salutations for plus sized bodies:

http://bodypositiveyoga.com/sun-salutation-modifications-for-plus-size-bodies/

Kasey, also a blogger for This Dish Is Veg (and a Floridian, represent!) on fat vegans and the shitty new shaming PCRM ads:

http://veggiemightee.blogspot.com/2012/03/fat-vegans-why-we-matter.html

Model Carre Otis on yoga, healing and body image:

http://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-4064/Q-A-with-Carr-Otis-On-Body-Image-Healing-Yoga-Meditation-Orgasms.html

Natala Constantine, Engine 2 Team Member and Inspirational Bad Ass, on being a still-fat vegan after losing 200 pounds:

http://veganhope.com/2010/01/11/yes-im-a-fat-vegan/

Joshilyn Jackson: My Big Fat Hot Vinyasa Flow–An Open Letter to the Fat Girl I Saw at Hot Yoga in New York City:

http://www.joshilynjackson.com/ftk/?p=1675

Becky Shiles of Open Book Blog on being told You’re Too Fat For Yoga:

http://beckyshiles.blogspot.com/2007/07/too-fat-for-yoga.html

You’re never “too old” for an eating disorder–yoga helps a 70-year-old woman to recover from bulimia:

http://www2.tbo.com/lifestyles/health-4-you/2011/apr/28/yoga-helps-heal-70-year-old-womans-bulimia-ar-202998/

What Are Your Priorities?

2 Jun

A friend at work asked me if I was interested in walking a half-marathon in LA to benefit the ASPCA. My immediate response was, “Hells yeah!”.  I’m always looking for any excuse to:  a. do more intense exercise (bad Maria),  b.  help animals, c. go to LA or d. socialize excessively. That’s how I roll.

The next thing I thought was, “Hmm, there’s a lot of places to do Ashtanga in LA…”. And then the thought that came a little later: “Wait a second, what if this marathon training screws up or interrupts my Ashtanga practice somehow? What if I get injured because of it? I don’t want to commit to anything that takes away from yoga and meditation”. Whoa, whoa, say what?! I can’t believe I just thought that! Yoga has never been so at the forefront of my mind and at the top of my priorities as it has been since I started the Ashtanga “Experiment” in March. Meditation has always been there since I got sober, but now it has kind of merged into my yoga practice in a new way. Hmmm, I just remembered that getting sober was also an “Experiment” and now it is almost 5 years later…! Recovery and my daily Ashtanga deal are the two things that I organize my days around now.

I’ve been chewing on this for about a week now and I think that it would, at this stage of the game, make practice a lot harder in terms of the increased physical demands I’d be placing on my beat up, 42-year-old body. I also think it would totally spin me out and make me crazier. It will put me right back into the gym, AKA my exercise bulimia comfort zone.

What are my priorities? Not beating myself up, that’s for sure. Ashtanga is like a 6 day a week, out-patient rehab program, but sweatier. I want to pay attention to my breath, what is happening in my body and what happens when I am meditating after my practice. That’s taking up a lot of time right now and I think I need it much more than I need to walk a half marathon.

With that being said, I think I will put on some Judas Priest and go clean my little yoga room right now! It’s seva for the Slayer Shala time…

Ooops I Did It Again: My Top 10 Plant-Based Mistakes

2 May

“He who joyfully marches to music in rank and file has already earned my contempt. He has been given a large brain by mistake, since for him the spinal cord would suffice”.–Albert Einstein

I have a lot of friends right now who are struggling with plant-based eating and trying to transition to a healthier lifestyle. Sisters and brothers, I feel your pain! I f’d up so many times on this path that I can’t even keep track any more. Do not give up on yourself! The rewards are worth all of the struggle. If I knew then what I know now, it would have been a far more struggle-free path for me. So here’s the top 10 mistakes I made along the way. I started this journey in 1994 and was not successfully vegan until 2010. If I can do it, anyone can.

1. Diet Mentality

Plant-based, healthy eating is not a diet. Veganism is a compassionate lifestyle, not a diet, and it extends to all areas of my life. When I start restricting my food and getting all crazy, the next thing I know I am skipping down the primrose path to hell, AKA the binge/starve and binge/purge cycle. I take the “Skinny” right out of “Skinny Bitch” really quick—go straight to Bitch, do not get out of jail free, do not collect $200. I need to eat well-balanced, adequate meals at reasonable intervals or I start making bad choices and I end up hurting myself. Just as I have compassion for the suffering of animals, I need to have compassion for myself. Dieting is not compassionate, period (no matter what the “Skinny Bitch” acolytes tell you).

2. Not Planning/Not Cooking For Myself

If I expect healthy vegan food to fall out of the sky and into my mouth, I am going to be sorely disappointed and I’m probably going to screw up. I go grocery shopping, I carry snacks in case of emergencies, and I plan my meals. ‘Nuff said. Get a cookbook, get in the kitchen and don’t be afraid to make mistakes! I use the Happy Herbivore, the Forks Over Knives companion book and of course Engine 2 and they are all lifesavers.

3. Not Asking For Help/No Support System

It takes a vegan village to keep my ass out of trouble. I got myself a vegan mentor, I surround myself with positive, vegan buddies and I go to a 12 step support group for people with food issues. Invaluable.

4. Trying To Negotiate With Binge/Trigger Foods

This might not apply to you, but it certainly applies to me. Unfortunately, it applies to many foods that are 100% vegan. I find refined sugars, fried food/anything excessively greasy, crunchy shit in a bag and any kind of dairy product to be totally way too exciting for me to handle.  I asked for help *see #3) and picked up a whole bunch of tools for my food addiction toolbox. I think sometimes people dramatically underestimate the addictive power of certain foods.  I’ve got to quote the lovely Victoria Moran here: “If there was a stalker set on harming you, you’d notify the police and do everything in your power to protect yourself. Understand that any food you haven’t been able to eat reasonably since you cut teeth is as threatening to you as that stalker. The safest path to tread with a binge food is one that leads away from it. In other words, don’t eat it–not because I said so, but because you’d rather not socialize with a dietary hit man.”

5. Listening To Haters/Not Trusting My Intuition

I had to experiment a lot on this path to figure out which foods made me feel good and which foods made me feel like crap. Everyone’s got an opinion. I thank them for sharing, smile, and ignore whatever commentary is coming my way about protein, plants feeling pain, man being designed to eat meat, God giving us dominion over animals, don’t you want just one doughnut you’ve been so good, milking cows doesn’t hurt them, my actions being meaningless because animals are going to be killed anyway, blah blah blah. People have their own paths to walk, and I am not out to convert anyone nor do I need to justify the way I eat or live today.

6. Perfectionism

I had to realize that I am human, and mistakes are going to happen. I prefer to look at them as “experiments”…sometimes experiments go awry, but I always learn something along the way. Sometimes, especially at restaurants, I’ve accidentally eaten food that had animal products, added oil or sugar. Despite my every effort to make sure my meal did not include these things, I found out later that they did and it’s OK and usually I stay away from that place or food in the future. It’s not about my personal purity; it’s about trying to cause the least harm to animals, other people and myself.

7. Making Things Way Too Complicated/Getting Fixated On Unimportant Details

I need to eat my veggies, do my yoga, meditate, take an occasional B12 and my Vitamin D, take my medications as prescribed and move around as much as I can. Everything else is a bonus. Trying to do complicated, extreme eating plans, calculating every calorie and micronutrient I eat, crazy workouts or other excessively complicated nitpicky crap is unnecessary and just makes my head spin.

8. Eating Things I Hate Because They Are “Healthy”

Life is too short to eat ugly food and it is too short to eat food that tastes like gritty hippie crap that someone cooked in a can over a bonfire at Burning Man. I have options. This is not the 90’s, people.

9. Trying To Transition Too Fast

I could not go from Sonic jalapeno poppers, frozen yogurt, cheetos, Frappucinos, veggie burgers, fries, frozen vegetarian pizzas and the occasional salad to kale/millet/aduki beans/gomasio/sauerkraut. That approach did  NOT work for me. I needed to wean myself onto some comfortable vegan alternatives, like Amy’s vegan pizzas, Tings, soy lattes, baked fries made at home, and So Delicious agave-sweetned coconut ice cream. I started adding more and more veggies to every meal and eating fresh fruit for dessert. Then eventually I weaned myself off of the vegan “methadone” and started experimenting with beans, whole grains and lots of new greens. Most of my meals now are whole foods based and very simple, but I couldn’t do that when I first started; my taste buds had to adjust. There’s a reason it’s called transitioning into a vegan diet, not leaping or lurching.

10. Unreasonable Expectations

I thought that eating mostly vegan would fix everything for me. And by “Everything”, I meant my obesity, all of my other health problems and my problems with food. And then when I lost a total of eight pounds in the first year, was still asthmatic and still had PCOS, I was pissed!  Where was my miracle cure, dammit? My energy levels were still sucky, I was still fat and I just didn’t feel right. First of all, I had to go all the way and really eat vegan and stop screwing around with dairy even just a “little”. Second of all, I had to do a whole bunch of other things (see 2, 3, 4, 6 and 9) before I started to see improvements. This did not happen overnight, and it takes as much time as it needs to. I can’t rush my body, but I can do everything within my power to help myself. Finally, I had to realize that just eating vegan for me is not enough, especially with weight loss. I had to really learn what “healthy” meant for me and do it! Healthy means balanced meals, lots of vegetables and not much crappy junk food, period.  I also had to stand up for myself with my doctor and demand answers for certain health problems and not just blame them on being vegan (or not vegan enough). I take my medications and do everything within my power to contribute to my overall healthiness. I do not fight myself. And it works—as long as I stay out of my own way!

Wiggle Your Big Toe

22 Apr

A lot of times, I feel exactly like Uma Thurman in the “Wiggle Your Big Toe” scene in Kill Bill. Sometimes when I am practicing, I am mentally telling my right leg to move forward into a lunge and it just…sits there. Stuck. Gristly. Stubborn. There are so many areas of my body that are a big mystery to me, and my entire right leg is the biggest mystery of all. I like that in Ashtanga, there is a system and it takes as much time as it takes for my body to open—no hurry, no judgement. Just acceptance of this is where I am today in practice, on the mat, breathing and listening to Slayer. Here we are!

I’ve spent a lot of time trying to decode my right side. Sometimes I think if my right side could just get unstuck, I would have some kind of massive spiritual liberation experience. All the secrets to my past are locked in that leg, that hip, even my big toe…which is now turning in on itself and becoming more and more painful. The idea of having to have more surgery makes me want to freak out and smash things, especially surgery on my feet.

I worked with a personal trainer who was also an IFBB professional figure competitor and bodybuilder back in 2009. I was really stuck in the binge/exercise purge cycle, and the problems with my right side always flare up more when I train really hard. She told me that I either want to be healthy and fit or I don’t, and all of the spiritual hemming and hawing and hiding out in my 12 step programs were not going to fix the problem. She was like a ripped, beautiful female Yoda: there is no try, there is only do. I could not handle this mindset at the time, and the training was brutal. She suggested I read Louise Hay’s You Can Heal Your Life, which is NOT what I was expecting her to tell me! Louise Hay’s theory about problems with the right side?

Right Side of Body: Giving out, letting go, masculine energy, men, the father.

Hmmm…

I am used to calling my right side “my bad side”.  I’ve also spent time working with an excellent Thai Yoga Massage Therapist here in Las Vegas, which was very helpful. She suggested that my right side is not my bad side at all. I was like, “Say What???”. Surely you jest.  I was so used to blaming all of my physical, postural problems on that side—it is the root of all evil! Jaime said that maybe my left side was weak and the right side has been picking up the slack all of the years. She said that both sides needed to be worked on, worked through and integrated. Demonizing my right side might just make it even more stuck. She suggested breathing into that side and sending it mental messages of love and acceptance.

Recovering from an eating disorder and going through the process of becoming a healthy body weight without resorting to my old tricks of self-abuse/dieting is strange and new. My weight loss is very, very slow right now. I lost a pound last month during the Ashtanga Experiment. Part of me was not happy with this progress, and part of me knows that I need to get acclimated to the size I am now before dropping more weight. I’m still not used to being 78 pounds lighter, never mind the next 50 pounds. I’m also getting used to a daily yoga practice and figuring out how my whole life and schedule works with that as a focal point. I want to squeeze in other physical activity aside from yoga, and it is not happening right now. Having a hard time with timing my meals, meetings, service, family stuff. There’s not enough room, unless I want to start not eating dinner or not sleeping!

Sending mental messages of love and acceptance to myself all day long is definitely a huge part of the process. Declaring war on my body and war on my remaining extra pounds does nothing for me at this point. The diet mentality for me is like a feudal lord trying to squeeze the last bit of tribute from his vassals, and the vassals have nothing left to give. They are in revolt and about to storm the castle.

A last thought about my right side from Tara Brach, author of Radical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life With The Heart of a Buddha: “When we abandon our body for our fear-driven stories about pain, we trap the pain in our body.”

 

The Ashtanga Experiment, Week 4

21 Apr

 

 

I can’t believe I made it a full four weeks of almost daily Ashtanga asana and meditation practice without imploding or something. Considering how much fear I used to have about Ashtanga, I am amazed at how kind of into the practice I actually got. Is it difficult? Yes. Do I have moments where I am thinking, “What the fuck am I doing on this yoga mat right now?”? Oh hell yes. I also spend quite a lot of time laughing, either at my playlists or at how godawfully inflexible I am. Most days, I am pretty eager to get home from work and lock myself in the Slayer Shala and get my yoga on. I actually bought myself proper yoga clothing, which is a miracle of miracles. For years, I was so screwed up about my body image and so engulfed in my eating disorder that I would not wear any form-fitting clothing, ever. It didn’t matter if no one was going to see it but me, it was not happening. I finally got sick of getting tangled up in my pajamas and in struggling with track pants that fit me 75 pounds ago and now look like a clown suit. If I am going to dedicate 5-6 days a week to practice, then I need to have clothes that are functional. I’m not saying I went all Lululemon and shit, but I did hit Old Navy and actually invest in the right size active wear. It still kind of freaks me out, but it definitely makes practice way easier.

I now do not have to go to me knees during any of the plank portions of the sun salutations, and I need to take fewer (ahem) extra breaths. I added some new asanas, and I am now doing up through the dreaded Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana, which was my nemesis in Bikram and is still my nemesis. Sorry, I mean, I am making friends with this asana (yeah, right).

My body is still going through a phase of total rejection at the gym. The last time I went to lift weights, my right side seized up again. I was really annoyed and agitated about this. I was talking to a friend who is a yoga teacher and ashtangi, and I started almost sobbing hysterically when I told her that I think I have to give up lifting weights. I am terrified to do this! I’ve been lifting since 1998 and it is something that I truly love. Unfortunately, I think it is truly fucking me up right now and I don’t know how many more clear signals I need before I stop. Not lifting this week as an experiment (me and my experiments).

Things are certainly easier now than they were four weeks ago. I am going to keep going. If a 42 year old who needs to lose 50 more pounds can do this, then Pattabhi Jois was right—anyone can do this practice.

 

 

The “O” Word…and an Ana Forrest book review

2 Apr

There’s an “O” word that I can’t stand, and it’s not overstock.com or Oprah…it’s obesity. Gaaaahhhhh!!! Every time I hear that word, I  want to crawl out of my skin. Honestly, I’d rather be called a fat ass, a fat chick or a fucking whale and I reaaalllllly hate being called any of those things. *Shudder*! And these days, the O word is everywhere. It’s an epidemic, ha ha! Fuck, it’s a pandemic. People, please: stop throwing the O word around so casually. The only thing I hate more than the O word is its sidekick, Morbid. I think I’m going to have a Metal band called “Morbid Obesity”. Morbid Bloody Obesity.

OK, but all ranting aside, Ana Forrest sure does love that word. I should have kept a running total of how many times she used it in her new book, Fierce Medicine (Harper One: 2011).

Which is an excellent book, by the way–I couldn’t put it down! However, it was very difficult for me to read her descriptions of and thoughts and feelings about fat women in particular. I’m not sure if she thinks using the word “obese” is somehow scientifically accurate or politically correct, but I found myself cringing every time she used it. Some of the passages were just plain painful and upsetting for me to read; I kept thinking that I would rather walk down the street naked than take a class with Ana Forrest if this is how she really feels about fat people! From the chapter entitled “Choosing Life”:

“Our Yoga teachers had us teach a class on the last day. The teacher training program was sharing Rancho Rio Caliente with a weight loss program, a retreat with structured meals and exercise. I decided to teach them a course I created myself, even though I was terrified because my mother and brother were also grossly overweight. It was another cliff jump for me–could I face my terror of these women and con them into letting me give them a free yoga class?…I learned more from working with those women for four hours than in my entire teacher training. But first I had to get over my revulsion so I could put my hands on them and try not to throw up in their hair. The obese women had the same fear of failure and body inhibitions that I did…I wanted to get these women out of self-loathing, so I taught them to look at the poses in a new way and ask themselves, What part of this can I do?…they could do a whole lot more than any of us thought they could; we just had to get creative. As I worked to accomodate their limitations, the voice inside me droning they’re fat/they smell/you’re gonna get it began to quiet, and I began to get in touch with this struggling, suffering being I found inside each of them. We were the same! I gained so much respect for these women and their courage.” (p. 116-117)

She has a truly inspiring and amazing personal story, and she focuses on yoga as a profound system for healing from traumas of all kinds. From the chapter entitled “Stalking Fear”:

“When we struggle, we become our most stupid self. We lost contact with our deepest breath, we forget all of our resources, we move in a desperate, injuring way, and then we quit–none of which is helpful for progression. If your backside is burning, that’s okay, that’s not an injury–that’s energy getting ready to release. Sometimes it’s rage. When our power has been stopped or shut down, we can feel rage at having our boundaries crossed and our creativity thwarted. This anger can get stopped up in the thighs and pelvis. For the love of the people you care about, ride those waves of intensity until they crest and break—breathe and release it before you leave the mat…keep tracking the emotional backlog through the pose. This will eventually lead you to the story of your own life, in which you made a crucial series of decisions that affect you forever because of the backlog still sitting in your cell tissue. With each tracked emotion, you clean a little layer out, but you also explore your own fear edge. You’re tracking something that’s exciting because it changed your life–you just don’t know how until you’ve tracked it all the way. You begin to question the decisions you made back then. You can choose to live differently now.” (p. 27-28)

I can’t even begin to say how helpful that passage was to me personally. Fierce Medicine was loaded with these types of gems; insights from a lifetime spent on the mat, teaching others and healing others. I suppose what I *should*do is face my own fear and seek this woman out as a yoga teacher immediately. OK, only kidding. Or maybe not.

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