From Body Battlefield to Body Beautiful Through Ahimsa
I remember the moment my body became a battlefield. I was sitting on the couch watching a documentary on ballet. I remember we had just moved to a new town (we moved a lot when I was growing up) and I was nervous about starting school and making new friends. I remember them talking about the physical requirements they looked for when recruiting students to their school: long neck, short torso, long legs - turned out at the hip, and not an ounce of fat to be seen.
I remember thinking that if I looked the way they did, then I would be accepted in the new school I was about to walk into. I watched that documentary on ballet and then headed to the bathroom, assessing my own body in the mirror. Long neck - nope; short torso - kinda; long legs - definitely not; turned out at the hip - yup, people always said I walked like a duck; and fat - well…
In that moment, I transformed. I went from a girl who didn’t really notice how my leotard fit in my dance classes to one that wore layer upon layer to avoid the reflection in the mirror. I began to reject food and accept hunger.
As I moved through high school, throwing up my food became a more effective method for expelling the hatred I carried for my body and emotions. In college, I was bingeing and purging five times a day and dancing eight hours a day.
After college, I swam between the spaces of anorexia and bulimia, willing my body to lose weight, still under the illusion that the number on the scale was a number by which I could be valued in this world.
I moved to Chicago and sought therapy, went to support groups, and worked with a nutritionist. Then, I found a yoga class with a beautiful teacher, Erin Cowan at Moksha Yoga Center in Chicago. She helped me tune into my breath and the true strength and power that resided inside. I began to learn that I am perfect, just as I am.
As my yoga practice evolved, I learned about Ahimsa. The very first Yama in Patanjali’s Eight-Limbed Path of Yoga. Ahimsa. Non-violence toward others, but even more importantly, toward oneself. This concept was only presented to me by the Universe when I was ready to hear it fully and completely. When this moment arrived, it helped me on my path to full recovery from eating disorders. I learned my negative thoughts and the abusive behaviour I directed toward myself prevented me from moving forward, from truly living a more nourished life.
When I fully put Ahimsa into practice, my asana and meditation practices are filled with freedom. I give myself permission to be right where I need to be. To practice and meditate in a way that shows me just how beautiful I really am.
Because I am beautiful, and perfect, just as I am!
Heather Evans, MS, RYT-200 is the Founder of and Motivation Maven at Journeys on the Mat. She is a passionate teacher who is inspired by everyday moments of bravery and is fiercely dedicated to social justice and equality. In her classes, there is a deep emphasis on breath, playfulness, and personal empowerment. Her mission is to break boundaries and connect people to the moment and their deeper selves in shared spaces of inspiration and support.
Heather completed her 200-hour yoga teacher training with the School of Sacred Arts in Bali and was immensely inspired by the teachers, culture, and nature. In addition, she holds a Master of Science in Public Service Management and a Graduate Certificate in Women’s and Gender Studies. Heather has traveled to and lived in many places around this world and currently calls Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, home. Heather’s personal mantra: Every moment, every breath is a new opportunity to seek joy, connection, and inspiration.
Connect with Heather at www.journeysonthemat.com