In previous posts, we talked about the importance of upping your nutrition as part of your recovery program. As you begin to love yourself with your food choices, you will naturally begin to love yourself with your exercise program as well.
However, don’t over do it. It took me years to realize that I was.
A few years into abstinence I started noticing that my exercise habits were part of my eating disorder. For decades, I unknowingly used running as a bulimic outlet. (Bulimia can be anything we use to rid ourselves of excess calories—purging, laxatives, diuretics, periods of fasting … or excess exercising.)
I would lace up my Nikes and head out on the seawall. Five or six miles would tire me out enough to ease the mental tension and burn off any bits of excess fat floating around my midsection. Block after block, mile after mile, I ran. Often, I wished I could run to the edge of the planet and be done with it. Peace and ease were elusive feelings. Interestingly, people positively reinforced my frenzy. “You’ve already run 10K and it’s only 7am?” Or, “Wow, you’re so thin—look at those leg muscles! I want to be disciplined like you.” If they only knew my motive for running excessively was so ignoble—to get out of my freaky mind and to run off too much eating—they may not have been so generous with their praise. I felt like such a fraud. This is not the “movement as medicine” I’m referring to.
As more time passes between my last binge/purge and the present, I have found my movement choices have become much more gentle and spiritual. I traded CrossFit for kundalini, boot camps for ashtanga, long distance running for hiking, and TRX for vinyasa. It’s a wholesale change.
Pre-abstinence, the energy behind my exercise choices was quite frenetic and self-punishing. While I find things like CrossFit and boot camps super fun, essentially I was beating my body into some sort of shape I thought was attractive—stronger, trimmer, and more toned. But did I leave each session a better person? Maybe physically and even mentally, but not emotionally or spiritually. It became insufficient. If I was going to spend time exercising, there had to be a spiritual component also. Not to say that anything we do can’t have a spiritual component if we declare it as such, but I was looking for something inherently spiritual. I found that in yoga.
While I had practiced yoga in my 20s, my mind was way too squirrely to spend 60 to 90 minutes on a two-foot by six-foot mat. It was torture. But as my monkey mind began to abate, that mat became my friend. As my body became more flexible and fluid, so did my mind. As my mind opened up, so did my spirit. Yoga is a win-win-win and a powerful piece of the addiction-healing puzzle. Tommy Rosen, best selling author of Recovery 2.0, uses kundalini and other forms of yoga to gain access to the extraordinary healing power already within each of us. Yoga is a foundational part of the global recovery work he spearheads, and I couldn’t agree with him more.
If you don’t have a consistent movement practice that you love and look forward to, make it your strong intention to finding one. It will be a powerful strategy in your recovery.
Love and light,