My eating disorders began after a life-threatening childhood illness. The drugs that doctors gave me to help heal my body resulted in sudden and severe weight gain just as I hit puberty. I felt like my body had betrayed me. It was a painful and unsafe place to be, and I felt like I emerged from a battle with a body that was deformed and hardly belonged to me. All I wanted was to be accepted by my peers, but the harder I pushed for it, the more elusive acceptance became, and a part of me began to seek outside approval at the expense of everything else.
College was my worst time. I threw up about 40 times a day and exercised relentlessly to try to achieve a perfect figure. I thought my ability to sexually attract men was the only way to measure my self-worth. Bulimia felt as necessary to me as breathing. It was how I coped with all my feelings, and how I ensured that I had some measure of control over my life, although really the control didn’t exist at all, and I was deeply in the grip of an addiction.
It took me years to stop hurting myself, and it was finding Kundalini yoga and meditation that helped me do it. Chanting mantra did something special for me. In the beginning, even when I thought it was a little strange to be singing words I didn’t understand, it felt like I was able to lay down the part of me that was in so much pain, step outside of my problems for a moment, and connect with my spirit. Chanting made me feel free and limitless, and all I wanted was to stay in that feeling forever.
As my practice deepened, when I would feel the urge to purge, I’d chant Aad Guray Nameh, a Kundalini mantra for protection, over and over in my head until I could drown out the thoughts and overcome them. Mantra became a talisman I could use against the negative thoughts that would come when I looked in the mirror. Little by little I was able to replace “You’re so fat” with loving, supportive words. Kundalini yoga also helped me repair my relationship with my body, and it became a safe place again and one that I trust to take care of me. I’m a hundred pounds heavier now than I was at my thinnest, but as my weight has grown, I’ve matched it ounce for ounce with self-love, and I feel more beautiful than ever. Now I treat my body as a temple, but even more than that, a friend. When I sat down to write my book about body acceptance, I hesitated, thinking I needed to lose a few pounds before writing on the subject. I caught my old patterns and smiled, thinking, “I’ll never let my weight be the source of my self-worth again.” And that thought feels free and limitless, too.
Ramdesh Kaur is a yoga teacher and author of The Body Temple: Kundalini Yoga for Body Acceptance, Eating Disorders, and Radical Self-Love. (Fall/Summer 2016).
ramdesh.com | Photos: Gurusurya Khalsa