The beginning of YogaED

When I started thinking about how AnEarToHear could help people with Eating Disorders, I immediately recognised just how far the impact of the illness reaches, and how this far surpassed my ability to help. I realised that, just like I had needed, the emails I was receiving were asking for advice on relaxation techniques, tools to calm their racing mind, and to soothe the panic that dominated their days.

With this in mind, I started to think about how I could collaborate with other people and services to be able to really provide that holistic and precious support that I knew would be of value.

With caution I started to think about Yoga and on more than one occasion, I was reminded by a dear friend just how valuable Yoga can be in stilling the noise of the mind and really becoming intune with ones body. The same dear friend put me in touch with the amazing Yoga Therapist, Alex Flatman and it gives me so pride to be able to write this, our first blog following the successful launch of YogaED.

YogaED was born with the intention of being able to provide a yoga class specifically for those with a history, or current issue with disordered eating and body image.

We had clear aims and knew that the class would be one of calm and tranquility, allowing the body to rest into poses rather than push or exceed the bodies limits.

It was so important for us to step away from the fashionable Yoga that can be so easily abused by those who are fighting distorted thoughts towards exercise. The poses and sequences that are practiced are done so with the aim of internalising thought and directing energy inwards.

During the class, we create an environment that is safe and peaceful. Each student has their mat, their grounding force which serves as their island for the duration of the class. On that mat, they have the opportunity to isolate themselves from their irrational thoughts and find peacefulness in relative solitude. With a small candle marking the top of each mat, and artificial lighting dimmed, the whole room breathes tranquility, the perfect space to develop composure and silence.

Each week, Alex creates a class that aims to ground the body and mind into present moment with a theme that runs inherent throughout the practice.

These themes whilst applicable to all of us, living incredibly busy and hectic daily lives are even more relevant for those suffering with eating disorders. These have varied from Grounding to thinking abut Self Compassion. These themes are areas that I know from my own experience, I often had difficulty in both understanding and practicing. When Alex concentrated on Grounding she encouraged us to think about how our feet need to be planted firmly on the ground in order to be able to move forward. In line with that, it really encouraged me to think about recovery as a walk, a walk where in order to move forward, our feet have to be firmly on the path in front of us. That no matter what, our feet must remain pointing forward, planted firmly down and moving in one direction. We cannot let ourselves get carried away by unhealthy thoughts that lift us out of our grounding and into heights that cause us to loose focus and direction.

That grounding on the mat, allowed us to feel strong and powerful, not by performing a difficult pose but by simply being firm in our standing and consequential thought.

Following the class, we engage in a few moments of peer support where we give ourselves the opportunity to vocalise any thought thats have arisen either in the previous week or through the class. Remaining constant in this discussion is the overwhelming feeling of wellbeing that results from the classes core practice. Students feel remarkably calm and at ease. It is always clear from their face that they have individually benefited in their own way from the practice and they are able to take away from it what ever message or learning they wish.

Eating disorders are on the rise, and this is not just in official diagnosis. Many many people wait years and years to seek treatment before reaching out for help. Body image is so heavily focused upon in our lives, that not a day goes by that we are not bombarded with images, headlines or simply our own thoughts. We aspire for the perfect body, to fit the mould we believe we are destined to be, achieve happiness through the ideal body.

I can 100% promise however, that happiness, contentment and peace is not found through our physical appearance. The pursuit of this is one that undeniably led my to eating disorder but YogaED can really help to stop your thoughts, clear the mind and really acknowledge where the answer to true contentment lies- and that is within yourself, just the way you are. Beautiful and rich in every way. 

Hannah - An Ear To Hear