At one of my very first Reiki sessions earlier this year, I told the healer that what I wanted to do in that session was to release my fear of getting sick when I ate. I wanted to just let go of that fear.
And what do you want to replace it with? she asked.
Strength, was the first thing that I replied.
How about trust, she suggested.
I didn't understand what she meant by that, at first. It's taken me four months to finally grasp why she suggested trust instead of strength, and that brings me to yet another installment of Why I Do Yoga: Trust.
To understand this, you have to understand what I grew up with at home: my mother spent most of my childhood convinced that if she ate something, pretty much anything, that her body would have an allergic reaction and that she would shut down and die. Over the years, she gradually excluded pretty much every kind of food until she was subsisting on a diet of stew beef (with as much of the fat cut out as she possibly could manage), frozen broccoli, carrot baby food, and just one particular brand of bottled water. Her last few weeks in the hospital are an almost unbearable memory to me now, as I saw her eating things like sweet potatoes and hamburgers - things that she had previously been convinced would kill her. Things that she could have and should have been eating all along.
My mother did not trust her body.
Back in 2011 when I was really, really sick with pain, nausea, vomiting, and a bunch of other nasty GI symptoms I won't list here, my anxiety mind became convinced that I actually had pancreatic cancer, and that the doctors just couldn't find it or were missing it. The final diagnosis was some sort of gallbladder disorder, which was never properly diagnosed, because my doctor decided that since every single damn imaging test and blood test they ran on me came back perfectly normal, she didn't want to put me through an endoscopy when she didn't think they would find anything, anyway.
So, I went back home and found myself afraid of food.
Just like my mother.
I just didn't trust my body to behave itself when I ate. I became convinced that no matter what I ate, I was going to experience another bout of nausea and/or vomiting whenever I had a meal or a snack. It got to the point where it was negatively impacting my life, making it impossible for my husband and I to go out and enjoy a nice dinner together, and causing stress whenever we were invited to eat with friends.
But when I started up my yoga practice again last November after hurting my back, something amazing happened in my very first class: I felt strong again.
The feeling didn't last very long, because shortly after I started my practice again, I had another attack of anxiety that lasted for several weeks and required several trips to several doctors and a shot in my ass. (Literally.)
I started back up again at the end of January after I was given the all-clear, and again, I started to notice some things in class. Like the fact that I felt strong in a lot of the standing poses. That even when I thought I was going to fall apart from an anxiety attack at the beginning of class, if I could just hold on until we pushed back into our first downward dog, the tears would come, and the feeling would pass, and I would be fine.
I started to trust my body again.
I found that I was capable of amazing things, both on the mat and off. I started eating foods that I hadn't touched in almost three years - things like onions and garlic and bread and Starbucks.
And then just a couple of weeks ago in a particularly rigorous Ashtanga-inspired yoga class, I suddenly realized that I trust my body.
Yes, sometimes the anxiety creeps back in when it's time to eat, or when it's time for me to travel and I worry about what I'll eat or getting sick from something that I eat. But the mindfulness training and my "yoga mind", as I call it, steps in and says, "No. Not now. Listen to your breath. There's nothing wrong with you, and you can't let yourself worry about the future when it's something that you're imagining might happen."
And I move on.
Yoga has taught me to trust my body again. Now, at the end of every session at the studio when Robin reminds us to thank our body, I bend forward in deepest gratitude.