The other day I had the powerful experience of leading four women through a yoga practice at a retreat. The women had come together to strengthen their eating disorder recovery journey. I was inspired by their grit and dedication. After all, attending a retreat is voluntary. These individuals participated purely out of choice, knowing they were going to do some seriously hard work.
With yoga mats, grounding stones, and paper and pens, we set off to share a yoga experience. I began by asking the women to write down a word that described how they wanted to feel that day. Words like "thin," "empty," "numb," or other eating disorder associations were off limits. This exercise was about imagining another way to feel and accessing and drawing out their "healthy voice."
As we flowed in and out of poses, I cued the women to recall the word they wrote down. I asked them to hold their word in their mind as we breathed, balanced, twisted, folded, backbended, and inverted.
At the end of the practice, I asked the women to give their word a pose. You see, I believe we can wire in a feeling that we want to cultivate through our bodies. In other words, we can embody a feeling by creating a pose that expresses that very feeling. For example, in the same way that hunched shoulders, clenched hands, and a frown can embody (and even create) a sense of depression, anxiety, or loneliness, an open stance, with feet firm on the floor and shoulders back (like mountain pose) can embody a sense of grounding or confidence. We can call on a pose to literally shift our mood, thoughts, and demeanor. This is a powerful tool I've been practicing in my own healing journey.
I was so impressed and inspired by how willing and open the women were to this exercise. "Peaceful" took the form of tree pose and mountain pose. Half moon pose represented "alive." All five of us were smiling by the time we finished sharing.
It was quite a moment for me to watch the women combine their word with a pose. In fact, one of them brilliantly named the exercise "Power Pose." How perfect, right? When we realize that we can interrupt an eating disorder thought or behavior simply with a word and a pose, we have gained immense power. We show ourselves that the very thing that we believe controls us can be quieted and even conquered, if even just for a moment. That single moment is the gateway to many, many more moments one word and one pose at a time.
Many thanks and blessings to those four special women for gifting me with the beautiful idea of Power Pose and sharing their yoga practice with me.