Read Michelle’s inspiring story about how she went from being her own worst critic, which sent her on a downward spiral, to finding herself again and learning to believe she was enough.
Hey, my name is Michelle, I’m 34 and I live in Sunny Worthing!
There are so many things I feel passionate about and would love to share with you, however I have chosen the most real thing about me that I am sure others will relate to. This subject is very close to what I think, the ‘I AM’ campaign is about. I discovered something that has taught me ‘I am enough’.
For as long as I can remember I have been my own worst critic (I think we are all guilty of this to some degree). I have been beyond strict with myself on all health and wellbeing matters. I am acutely aware that we only get one body and that I owe it to myself to take care of it. As we all do.
For most of my life, I have berated myself when I made bad health decisions. I have done this in the form of mental anguish and physical punishment. Over the years I have demanded many things of my body. I have put it through gruelling early morning high intensity workouts, tough all-consuming gym programmes, county level swimming training and competitions, training for and completing a marathon, competitive CrossFit classes, endless 5k and 10k’s and all the numerous classes I teach as an exercise class and PT instructor. I have had highs and lows with all of these, feeling invincible and then burning out. Admittedly my body responded by getting stronger and aesthetically I was in good shape but looking back, my body was on a rollercoaster.
I thought that if I could just complete a marathon, the training would make me fitter and skinnier and I would be happy. If I joined Crossfit and became stronger, it would show me that I am capable. If I got up an hour earlier every morning to do a tough workout, it would prove to myself how committed I am. If I can qualify to teach any fitness class I want, it will be undeniable proof that I am good enough.
I got caught up in this spiral of nothing being enough. I had this loud nagging voice in my head that kept saying…’If I am not earning good money whilst being in the best physical shape then I am failing’. When I say it out loud now, it sounds ridiculous! But it was very real for me back then. My mind was pushing me into a corner that didn’t exist.
“The eating disorder was a way of coping”
Guess what…. I failed. I fully failed in my mid 20’s when all this unnecessary pressure resulted in an eating disorder. It showed up at a time when I should have been enjoying life. I was 24, earning good money and living on my own for the first time. It should have been the good days! However I was working both a full time and part time job, marathon training, and teaching all my classes, along with trying to date! This was on top of all the mental pressure I was putting on myself, as explained above. My body had no other option. The eating disorder was a way of coping. I didn’t choose it, my body thought it had devised a clever way of circumnavigating the problem! Dealing with a symptom rather than the root cause. Otherwise known as a ‘downstream’ fix, to an ‘upstream’ problem!!!
It continued to get worse. I knew I was damaging my body and I couldn’t stop myself. I was out of control and I was silently suffering and pretending all was ok. Until one day, I wrote a desperate letter to my mum. I knew if I tried to talk about it I would chicken out. So I wrote it down. I remember it…..it was a Friday and I was going away for the weekend and I said to myself…if you still feel the same way when you get back then give mum the letter.
I never gave my mum that letter.
HOWEVER, when I next saw my mum, she knew something was up. She asked me if I was ok…..I just looked at her and told her. I am not sure to this day if the letter was the reason I didn’t lie anymore. Maybe it was, maybe it wasn’t. I’ll never know 100% but I do feel that I felt able to answer her question honestly because I had been desperate enough to write it down.
As soon as I had broken my vow of silence I felt stronger. It is hard to explain but my sinking ship felt fixable with someone else in the boat with me! I felt obligated to help myself. If I couldn’t’ do it for me, then I had to try for my mum.
“My recovery journey has taught me to love myself”
And so my recovery began. It has not been a smooth road and I think I will always be vulnerable to its jaws but something very special and close to my heart is responsible for altering the ‘Upstream’ problem. It is the real topic of this article and I only had to explain the first bit to help you understand how powerful it is. It has given me an invisible power that I feel within me, every moment of every day. It has taught me to love myself and the moment I am in. After all…..the other moments are only memories or dreams, they are not real. This moment, right now, whilst you are reading this, is the only real moment that truly exists and it deserves 100% of your attention.
I’m talking about yoga.
I started teaching yoga 9 years ago, to be able to run a class at the gym I worked at. I did not qualify because I felt a yearning to become a guru or a desire to preach ancient Indian wisdom! I did it because I thought it would be a nice, slower paced class to teach that would keep me flexible….how naïve I was.
3 years into teaching, with only the basic knowledge I had received from my initial certification, I started to discover what else ‘yoga’ was about. This discovery changed my life.
There is so much to yoga. The different traditions, styles, concepts and elements, it is not just about breathing and flexibility. Through physical practice with clients, reading books and listening to masters in their fields, I learn something new every day. I pass on my learnings whenever I can!
No one type of yoga is right or wrong. It is Your Body, therefore it is Your Yoga.
There are elements of yoga that will resonate with you and give you almost instantaneous feedback and there are others that will not suit you or may take some time to present themselves as a positive in your life. There is of course the physical benefits of this movement practice: my suggestion is to google them…they are endless!
For me, yoga has given me knowledge. It has shown me why the body behaves the way it does. The way in which our brain responds to external factors, plays a massive role in the functionality of our body and our mental health. When under stress, our automatic processes do not work the way they should, having a tremendous negative knock on effect. We get tired, emotional, overweight, stiff, weak, sick, immobile, reclusive, sad and unhappy. All of these things occur when under too much stress but also when we neglect our body through lack of movement and poor mental and physical nourishment. Nourish yourself with a regular yoga practice.
Over the years, movement and other elements of human nature have been removed from our lifestyles. I will not list all of these or this article will become a dissertation! However, face to face, real life, genuine interaction has almost been replaced with technology. Technology has its place and serves an incredible purpose but please be aware of true human connection and its importance on your mental and ultimately physical health.
Yoga has helped me understand and balance my ‘Upstream’ problem. As you now know, it was a ‘mind over matter’ ripple effect. The tools I have learnt from yoga, have given me my peace back. I know that sounds corny but it is true. I have the power to think myself well, thanks to yoga. In addition, I have a functional body that is more capable in my 30’s than it was in my 20’s. I cannot wait to see how I feel in my 40’s, 50’s and 90’s!!!
My blend of yoga is called YogaiSH! I have combined my fitness knowledge with yogic traditions and movement patterns to provide a practice that conditions your whole body. We are currently in a massive movement deficit and we owe it to ourselves to consciously make time for a functional structured practice. We must stop using ‘exercise’ as punishment and feed our bodies with the love it deserves. Your body is one whole unit. We dissect the body for anatomy purposes but in reality there is no separation from one part to another. Truly, we are entirely integrated within and without. My practice honours this truth and encourages you to maintain or regain optimum health through regular mindful movement.
I am a free spirit. My classes do not involve chanting or references to any god and contain very little sanksrit. I believe yoga should feel accessible to everyone.
Thank you for reading this article and giving the moments it took you to read it 100% of your attention.
I hope you decide to at least give yoga a try. There are many out there…if one style/class doesn’t suit you, I urge you to keep trying until one does. The right practice will light up your life in indescribable ways.
It was an honour to write this article, maybe one day we will meet in person. I would really love that ☺
Michelle @ YogaiSH!