At the age of 27 Natalie Farrell, emphatically decided “enough is enough” and embarked on a 10-year journey healing herself from the physical and mental damage caused by years of battling an eating disorder. Here she shares how yoga helped her through this journey and continues to inspire her now.
Our twenties are supposed to be a decade of personal growth, challenge and exploration. A time when we can be forgiven for making mistakes before we are old enough to know better! However, my teens and early twenties were not like this. When I think back on this period of my life, I see a small person, trapped within a multitude of constricting confines that controlled my attitudes to my body and my sense of self. Instead of looking outwards, I was constantly focussing inwards and the negative chatter was firmly in control, drowning out anything positive my friends and family had to say.
I knew that I had to change, and for me, that would start with changing the conversation I was having with myself about myself. People can tell you that they can see the beauty in you, but you must see it and believe it yourself. My tipping point was when I was living alone and suffering panic attacks more frequently. I remember during one attack I came out from my body, in what I later came to understand through my yoga practice, was being an ‘observer’. I was observing myself and what was happening to me in a way that was pragmatic, segmented from any emotion, but with intelligence and rationality. I knew then that I had to start believing the things people were telling me about myself because, rationally, why were they saying these things? And for the first time, I allowed myself to believe it was because they truly meant them. On reflection, I am reminded of a quote by Eckhart Tolle, which had a profound impact on me, “If you get the inside right, the outside will fall into place.”
I knew that I had to ‘stand-up’ and, metaphorically speaking; ‘throw open my wings and fly’ through those constricting confines. I needed to be brave, coax myself to experience new places, immerse myself in different ways of living, explore cultures and gain an insight into how other people live their lives and, above all, force myself to be more adventurous and take more (calculated) risks.
So, the first part of my journey involved travelling, firstly on my own through Europe and then through America with my sister. During this time, I overcame many small, but big challenges for me; managing my travel budget, meeting people I didn’t know, going to places where I have never been, driving on the other side of the road, walking across cities without a plan or a destination, adjusting to the huge, open spaces of Nevada and the contrasting busyness and claustrophobia of Rome. Being a lone traveller in Italy opened the path to conversations with strangers, inspired a new internal dialogue and thoughts and provided moments of mindfulness and self-indulgence. I remember buying a dress, made of cottons. At the time, it was an extravagant expense for me, but the feeling of allowing myself to have something nice and to be able to express who I am through my clothes and not care what other people think was huge. I had come from such a restrictive place, I was opening myself up and changing, thinking, “I’m not the person I was, I feel differently now, and I feel the world’s a beautiful place.”
Travelling, for me, is to plant roots to my soul. It made me want to go ahead in life, discovering how to root and fly at the same time, metamorphosing integration and migration.
I was lucky enough to have been taught Yoga by Ganga White, the founder of the White Lotus Foundation in Santa Barbara, California. Through his teachings and in his book “Yoga Beyond Belief” he reminds us that “part of yoga practice is to connect. To connect flexibility and strength, balance, concentration, sexuality, consciousness and spirituality, so that what may have begun solely as a physical practice can evolve into an integrated and holistic approach to all aspects of one’s life”.
I firmly believe this to be the case and that this integrated and holistic approach to life is what people are looking for. Yoga is more than escaping the many demands placed upon us as individuals, it is about us celebrating our individuality. Yoga is not about competition and comparing ourselves to others, it’s about listening to our bodies and working to build core strength, both mentally and physically at a pace and time of life suitable for us. Yoga allows me to improve not only my physical body and my mental wellbeing, but also to develop my spiritual side, all of which impact on every aspect of my personal and business life.
Yoga built on five key motivators for me:
Freedom – giving yourself permission to change and take action. To embrace the power of letting go
Instinct – looking at our usual responses and resulting thoughts and behaviour patterns to food, exercise, diet and our internal chatter. Abuse your body and it will stop working
Versatility – in your approach and attitude to new people, challenges and opportunities
Expansive – saying yes with increasing confidence, knowing that your self-limiting conversation is under control. Being open to the unknown and unexpected as it is revealed to you
And finally, centred – this is the renewed sense of purpose and ambition coupled with the determination to achieve your goals. For me, being centred is about the inner strength that comes from truly accepting and loving who you are. And that’s the part of self-love, the part of that you’re beautiful.
I am now in my 40th year, with the eating disorder behind me, I have a healthy relationship with food and have spent the last year setting up a successful online business. My personal journey forced me to ‘meet myself’ and taught me to value who I am. This, combined with the power of letting go, the realisation that we are beautiful as we are and the acceptance of the ‘amazing you’ within, excite and inspire me to help others.
By Natalie Farrell