Yin Yoga: The Catalyst to Healing My Unhealthy Relationships with Perfection & Disordered Eating

Over the years, I’ve put on a lot of weight as a result of my compulsive binge-eating disorder. My struggles to lose weight actually led me to yin yoga. With a body that is now fuller than I’ve ever been used to, I experience body dysmorphic thoughts as well as aches and pains that never existed. Pain in my lower back, for example, has often been so intense that walking or standing sometimes feels challenging. I obviously don’t mention it in group settings because I fear the judgment that may arise simply because people don’t understand. It’s not unimaginable that the topic of weight loss will surface too. Managing an eating disorder while also trying to lose weight has no easy, one-size-fits-all approach. It’s also not an easy conversation to have with people who don’t understand depression, eating disorders and/or body dysmorphia.

Shame about my body has heightened my desire to hide from the world. I often avoid pictures and social situations that require me to dress in anything other than casual/leisure clothing. I utilize curbside pickup, delivery services, and drive-through windows to avoid getting out of my car and facing the public. Last summer while still learning how to manage my weight, I agreed to attend an outdoor festival with friends. Upon arriving at the venue, I realized that this was probably not a good idea. It was hot outside and we’d also be walking around the expansive space the majority of the time. I believed that avoiding social gatherings would leave me isolated, so I hadn’t thought through the logistics of being at this festival. 

Sitting inside the crowded venue for most of the afternoon, I ensured my friends that they could continue without me. Something had to change. I wanted to lose weight, but hesitated to enroll in group workout programs because I doubted my abilities. I was convinced that I’d struggle to remain consistent and keep up with others. The last thing I needed was a reminder of how out-of-shape I’d become. The overwhelm from deciding on a course of action, coupled with intense shame about my abilities paralyzed me. For a while, I took no action. Eventually though, I stumbled upon a boutique gym called TruFusion that offered heated yin yoga classes. Low impact by design, yin seemed accessible. I signed up for a Sunday session using ClassPass. Two hundred seventy calories later, I knew I’d found the safe space that would kickstart my wellness journey.

I knew nothing about yin yoga, except that it was slower than other styles. Oddly enough, when I was younger, yoga felt too slow for me! Now, I appreciate the slower pace. Yin yoga focuses on activating the fascia to increase elasticity in our connective tissues by holding poses for a long time. This is exactly what I need – now more than ever. High intensity workouts matter do matter, but so does mobility and flexibility. I quickly began looking forward to more yin yoga classes as they allowed me to ease back into being active. The small wins mattered as I slowly started to crawl out of a dark space of shame and defeat.

Yin’s gentleness derives from its goal of holding poses deeply for an extended duration. As such you want to get into ~40-60% of the pose – not 100% – so that you can actually be still within that pose for anywhere from 2 to 5 minutes, or more. Inadvertently, yin yoga’s call-to-action is that we surrender – wherever we are. As such, speed, perfection, body-shaming, etc have no place in a yin yoga classroom. And ironically, those are the biggest demons I’ve been fighting…

I’ve been in a hurry to heal the hurt I carry from friends that discarded me abruptly. My desire to earn more, so I can post more guilt-free traveling content has been relentless. I’ve wanted this eating disorder to stop squaring up with me. My credit card debt taunts me. Stepping on the scale or looking in the mirror have been discouraging when I don’t see drastic changes. How am I supposed to attract a good man and begin to believe I’m worthy of love and care if I’m not breaking necks in the street?! These thoughts have plagued me for an insanely long time, but now, I’m starting to truly understand that hurrying will not get me to my destination any faster because the destination is the journey. Read that again!

While on my mat, listening to my yoga instructor, the fact that I showed up is already plenty. Trying is plenty. Being perfectly flexible isn’t a prerequisite for returning to the next class – returning is plenty. This ‘done, not perfect’ mentality is new for me. I’ve always felt like I needed to do everything perfectly and anything else was failure. Transparently, I actually struggle to devote time and effort to endeavors that don’t yield a desirable outcome quickly. I’m too impatient. Yin provides a space that tells me I am already enough. I don’t need to be perfect in class to be successful. Persisting is success. That is the healing. Allowing myself to grow into this next phase instead of chastising myself for not already being there perfectly, is healing the part of my inner child that thought she was only worthy if she was perfect.

Returning to a version of my body that I love is important, but before that can happen, I have to love and accept this body. Telling myself that I hate my body minimizes the painful trials of the last few years. The disappointment, confusion, and sadness of feeling stuck and unsuccessful in my former profession destroyed me. My current body is a physical manifestation of how I survived a turbulent time. It was a time where I constantly felt unseen, lost, and inept. So I coped with food. I didn’t initially realize that’s what I was doing, but eating for fuel and comfort eventually turned into full on uncontrollable binges. It brought me a semblance of joy and welcome that I didn’t feel anywhere else. And because food can feel like love, I became addicted to that feeling as it was a break from failure and rejection.

Putting on more weight was an unintended consequence of my binge eating. I was trying to care for myself in the only way I knew how. Dangerous as it can be once it’s over, binge eating offered me safety [temporarily] when I needed soothing. And if safety, soothing, and care were the reasons I ate compulsively, then how can I allow myself to hate the body that was simply adjusting to what it was experiencing? That’s why it’s so important for me to accept where I am now. It’s a result of a traumatic experience and I did the best that I could given what I knew then. I have to remind myself that trauma is not normal, and as such, coping with it in a healthy way is difficult. It’s actually difficult for many people. When I accept that trauma can be difficult, heavy and messy, I am actively healing my wounds. I am creating space for gentleness and forgiveness, I am able to release shame and I inadvertently disarm perfection. Perfection literally cannot exist in a space of radical acceptance.

I’ve since “graduated” from only taking yin yoga classes at TruFusion. I now attend other challenging classes in my “imperfect” state multiple times a week including hot pilates, hot barre, and hot barefoot bootcamp! As my “besties” on ‘The Black Girl Bravado’ podcast said, each time I do something that I previously thought I could not, I provide myself with evidence that I can evolve. Every time I step onto my yoga mat, I’m making a small deposit into the “bank” of the evolved version of myself that I endeavor to be. I do not need to be perfect in order to heal, but I do need to keep showing up and committing to being one percent better than I was the day before. 

So…if you’ve made it this far, I sincerely want to thank you for sticking with me, and I simply want to leave you with this: when you start, you may be scared, you may not feel ready, you may not have the whole plan, you may feel like you’re alone, you may have no tools or training, however, none of those things should be the reason that you don’t start.

6 thoughts on “Yin Yoga: The Catalyst to Healing My Unhealthy Relationships with Perfection & Disordered Eating

  1. Girlllllllllll.
    I damn near have no words.
    The beauty, the vulnerability, the inspiration….. & you taught me about radical acceptance which is heavy enough on its own!!
    Thank you for sharing your thoughts & experiences while motivating your readers to simply keep pushing.
    I’m proud of you & look forward to more!

  2. This is beautiful. So much of this resonated with me that it felt like a letter to myself. The encouragement, transparency, vulnerability, and truth that comes from healing through writing is evident here. After reading, I’m inspired to recommit to my healing journey no matter how messy it is. I know I am not alone. You’re not alone. Thanks for sharing this work of art which so happens to be your story. Bravo!

  3. This is so well-written and raw, thanks for your vulnerability and for blessing us with this. I’m going to share with one of my clients, I think this will really help them.

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