Food, yoga and the path to “I am ness” by Jessica Blanchard

by Jessica on June 20, 2012

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Yoga has helped me to find internal balance and unconditional self acceptance, the most important step to finding healthy weight.

A rainbow in Koh Samui, Thailand near Yoga Thailand

A rainbow in Koh Samui, Thailand near Yoga Thailand

I took a giant leap in 2004.  I was a highly paid consulting firm executive out of Nice, France.  My heart called for fulfillment outside of the corporate realm.  I spent most week nights alone in a small town outside of Manchester.  I would rise at 5am to to practice yoga before going to the office.  While yoga helped me to feel better, I found myself looking to food and sometimes alcohol for comfort. I would eat and drink more than I needed.  Although not overweight, I was heaver than I needed to be, and heavier than I was comfortable with.

Jessica in Nice before leaving Accenture, July 2004

Jessica in Nice, July 2004

Leaving the glitzy corporate job and moving to work at a retreat center in Thailand, I expected that I’d stop eating to excess and lose the weight quickly.  Practicing yoga and teaching seemed like the ideal path to the svelte, slender ideal I held of myself.  This may have happened for the honeymoon phase of my transition.  I was on a high from my decision, I enjoyed assisting at a teacher training for a great group of students.  I was out of the cubicle.  I did lose a few pounds, I no longer needed food to give me comfort.

When the sparkly newness of my life started to wear off, I noticed that I wanted to eat more, especially around dinner.  I was taking larger portions than I needed, eating past comfortable hunger, and sometimes even going for seconds.

In parallel, my periods had stopped, and my skin started to break out.  This pushed me to try various extremes of cleanses, from coconut water only to kitcharee for one month.  I was taking ayurvedic herbs, practicing yoga and trying to face my inner demons.

Jessica teaching at Yoga Thailand

Jessica teaching at Yoga Thailand

Why wasn’t this working?

When practicing in Mysore, India, on more than one occasion I was told that I had an advanced practice for being as large as I was, or that they were impressed that I could do certain advanced postures with my large hips.

There is often this idea in yoga that an advanced or ideal yogi is muscular, very thin, not voluptuous, round or soft. While I had settled into a new life, my ego had not yet caught up.

In yoga there is no best.  There is where you are each day, at each moment with each breath.

I wanted to be praised, to feel like I was somebody.  I was really (and still am) very new to the yoga path.  There is so much to learn that we can never be the best.  And if we try to pretend we are more than we are, we end up with a whole host of other problems.

When I quit my corporate job, I expected that I would find immediate fulfillment, because my heart wanted yoga.  My ego was lost – I was no longer the expert, the one who could make the call about the best design decisions for a large computer system, or build and IT strategy to make their systems strong and robust.

Jessica Blanchard near Nagpur, India 2006

Jessica Blanchard near Nagpur, India 2006

I hadn’t accepted that yoga is not meant to satisfy or gratify the ego. The ego will never really be satisfied, it always wants more and more.  Yoga helps understand and hopefully to accept the ego.  Acceptance of all parts of the consciousness is necessary.  Patanjali, the father of modern yoga speaks of the mind, ego and intellect.  We cannot obliterate the ego, we can only get it to accept what we are. Yoga has taught me to accept by learning to practice non-judgment of myself and others.  Over the years, I have found a healthy balance – in my diet, my hormones and my personal life.

Jessica at Villa Benvenuti, Tuscany, Italy June 2012

Jessica at Villa Benvenuti, Tuscany, Italy June 2012

Each day I learn how to apply the tools of yoga to my life.  This is challenging, but really a yoga practice.  Simply being okay with my body, my face, my thoughts, I am more likely to choose foods that nourish me on all levels.
I noticed recently that Jennifer Aniston and Cameron Diaz were on the cover of two different yoga magazines.  Are they the ideal yogis?

A yoga practitioner learns to accept themselves and all others completely.

A yoga practitioner tries to practice kindness and compassion without attaching expectations.

What is your definition of a yogi?

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