I am REALLY looking forward to teaching intenSati this morning at Equinox. I spent some time yesterday afternoon thinking about how meaningful this practice is to me and how it's brought about positive changes in my life. I didn't write any notes for myself but let's see if I can recall what I came up with...
For starters, when I first found intenSati I was incredibly depressed. I had developed a very intense eating disorder when I was a college freshman at Cornell and after about 5 years of treatment, I was making progress but not enough and besides still having symptoms of bulimia, anorexia and compulsive overeating, I had completely internalized that I was and would always be a mental patient. Not exactly a strong way to define oneself.
Thanks in part to the way the mental health treatment facilities and systems approached curing, healing or treating (pick your adjective) me, I was crushed and I could only see myself as someone who was going to end up seeped in therapists offices or hospitals. Gone were the days of being a successful, All-American nominated athlete and captain of multiple sports teams, an academic stand-out near the top of my class and Prom Queen (yes, Prom Queen, but the teachers voted not the students and I wouldn't have won if it were up to the students). Instead, as is the case with anybody who gets hooked by the claws of an eating disorder, I spent my days in the cycles of using and abusing myself and then trying to recover from the pain and violent behavior I had inflicted.
Ever the fighter, I would get up again and again to try something new -- a new therapist, treatment facility, idea, book, job, activity, diet, or treatment modality. I was always trying to get better while I was sick. This is a huge, huge factor in why I'm still here, I believe, and why I am starting to be and plan to be more vocal about what I think works and what doesn't, in my view.
Which brings me back to this fitness practice intenSati and why I'm doing it after 4 years as well as teaching it to very positive effect. When a person is depressed, there are countless systems in the body that are contributing to the low mood. You may know about seratonin, increased sensitivity to dopamine, high levels of cortisol (under stress), adrenaline, estrogen, testosterone and a slew of other chemicals that are swimming around inside and causing your thoughts and feelings to plunge. What I found in years of treatment (cognitive behavioral therapy, dialectical behavioral therapy, Freudian, EMDR, transpersonal, homepathic, 12 step work) is that nothing I was doing had the power to penetrate or BREAK through my thinking and feeling. I had a lot of cathartic moments and great insights as to what the hell happened that may have led to my developing this cluster fuck of symptoms, but then the thinking returned shortly thereafter.
When I stepped into Patricia Moreno's intenSati class, and if you haven't seen or met Patricia, go to her website and check out some video AND/or attend her 1-day Urban Warrior Retreat in the city tomorrow (Sunday, msg me for info or go to www.satilife.com) because she is an awesome, pillar of strength. She's an incredible athlete and dancer, very tall, muscular, gorgeous and has great hair. :) Awesome, long, flowy black hair! She's kind of like Wonder Woman. Well, that's how I viewed her at first. Wonder Woman meets Shakira or someting, but the point is, this practice she developed which fuses positive affirmations with exercises derived from aerobics, martial arts, dance and yoga, was a way for me to talk back to all the negativity I had accumulated and perfected over the years.
I began speaking truth to the harmful power of the eating disorder and depression. People say intenSati is intense, and trust me they aren't lying, which people enjoy for a ton of reasons ranging from the endorphin high to the calorie burn but the real, true reason that me and I think a lot of other devoted practitioners do it is because it takes a sort of loving, fitness-powder keg of positive dynamite and blows up some of the mental baloney and garbage that keep human beings sick and in their own way.
If Dostoevsky had intenSati, Notes from Underground would be about 10 pages.
I had essentially given up exercising, something I never dreamed in 10 million years could happen to ME, so when I started moving around again it caused so much joy that I would often weep towards the end of class.
I think what I want to end with is a story that I didn't know when I'd blog about but why wait. Now is the time. Live each day to the fullest and play full out, right!? RIGHT.
5 years ago was the last time I was hospitalized for my bulimia and depression. I spent 60 days on an in-patient unit where people were being treated for a slew of issues ranging from eating disorders to bipolar disease to alcohol or heroine addiction. The unit was co-ed, mixed ages and perhaps one of the scariest places I've ever spent time ever. Horrible. Beyond words actually, until I find the words, which I eventually will when I one day write about those and other experiences I had in treatment facilities.
There was a boy on the unit named Koby. Koby was a Queens College student and if my memory serves me right, he was studying architecture. He had sandy blonde hair, glasses and a wicked, biting sense of humor that cracked us all up. Koby was gay and open about that -- he seemed to have a crush on the male yoga teacher that we took class from inside the hospital but when he didn't get a response, it fed his insecurities. Koby grew up in the foster system and had been bounced around from place to place. He never found a true home in any sense of the word.
There was talk that he was really not doing well and feeling suicidal. This was a unit that had constant supervision and security, so I have no idea how it happened, but Koby managed to hang himself in the bathroom. In lieu of the recent gay, teen suicides everybody's been talking about, I've been thinking a lot about Koby. At this time exactly in 2005, he and I would be having our vitals taken in the morning by the morning nurse on the unit. It creeps and freaks me out to think that's where I was living. It feels like 20 years ago and it feels like yesterday.
When someone who is depressed commits suicide, it's always curious because one would expect that if they are so severely depressed they do not have the energy to commit the act. That's why you should be mindful if you know someone who is depressed and showing signs of coming back to life, since that's when they might actually form a plan and have the willpower to carry it out.
My own journey includes many stops furnished with lessons to learn that now allow me to benefit others and continue to grow in health. I am not completely healed or cured but I am light years away from where I was 5 years ago when Koby would tease me about my food plan (Come on just eat that pie!) and tell me he knew what kind of mood I was in based on how my hair looked. I swear he was right. I always have an amazing hair day after intenSati class. :)
So, I stand in my life as a woman who is learning what works and eager to share that others, as well as someone with a deep reserve of compassion for anybody suffering. I also recognize that the most important thing I do each day is practice living in a way that is loving, nurturing and healthy towards myself. I wake up each morning with a tendency to pick up old habits that don't serve me or simply get lost in thinking and emotions that lead down to the basement, but I now have so many new skills to face myself and for that plus all of the love in my life, I feel very grateful.
I guess all the positivity can seem a little hokey, overbearing or cheesy to some, but you know what, it kind of helped save my life so I'm going with it. I want to end with a song that I am using in intenSati this morning. It feels GOOD to listen to -- it's a warm song and inspires us to wake up, which I hope you do today in every sense of the word...
With xo and gratitude,