How to Heal: Movement, Minimalism & Morning Routine
As a Chinese Medicine teacher, I am blessed with amazing students...and as a yoga student, I am blessed with amazing teachers. Today's post features someone who is both!
Amanda Bell-Tardif is one of my students at the Chinese Medicine college in Nelson, BC...and one of my yoga teachers at Bambu Hot Yoga. I'm deeply grateful for our connection in both spaces...and delighted to share an interview with her here.
Below, Amanda talks about:
- Crafting a sacred morning routine
- Minimalism as an antidote to anxiety
- Her healing journey with movement, body and food
I hope you savour her insightful, inspiring responses as much as I did!
Please introduce yourself!
My name is Amanda, or ABT, as many refer to me: Purveyor of movement since the ripe-old age of 2. I knew for most of my life that movement was my form of healing – of expressing.
As a child of deaf parents, I didn’t develop the skill of expression through voice, so I used movement. It has taken many forms over the course of 30 years, but at the core, my appreciation for the human body and its ability to express is deeper than deep.
Could you talk about the role of yoga in your life?
I discovered yoga practice when I was sinking quite deep into a very challenging period in my life. Through my yoga practice, I found the power of prayer and intention. Through this practice, I began to connect to a deeper level of self and explore the vast journey of self-appreciation and self-love.
In its initial stages, my relationship to yoga practice was futile, or at least this is how it felt. Pointless most days...but I continued on regardless. It sparked a desire to know more about it and about myself. I was riddled with inquisition.
There were dark, deep days when being a contributing member of society was simply not an option. Spending countless days in bed, in darkness, the only glimmer of light I felt and saw was on my mat, in prayer, devotion and movement.
That said, yoga and I have had our rough patches, like any relationship. There were days, months and years when the practice itself felt as though it was creating a rift between me, myself and I. In actually, what was happening was the multitude of layers that I had protected myself with over the years were starting to peel open. The sutures were coming undone, and I was left to peer deeply into the depth of who I was and “face the music.”
It allowed me to truly get to know every angle, nook and dusty corner of my being. The practice connected me with me. Discomfort was needed (and at times, continues to be) in order to pierce a veil of darkness and see, feel and hold the light.
Today, after many moons of delving in and out of my yoga practice, I find myself in a nice space. The relationship I have to my practice is both nourishing and nurturing. It’s a relationship of mutual respect. It shows me and lights a path towards me being at my best.
This doesn't mean I don’t have dark moments. I am human, and darkness is essential to see the light. What yoga practice does for me is create a broad view – an aerial view of me in relation to everything else. And it gives me the tools of movement, stillness, prayer, devotion and gratitude to gracefully and reverently accept, let go and move forward.
how does yoga shape your relationship to body?
Did I mention I was a prima ballerina for most of my life? I was deathly afraid of fat, of being fat and getting fat. I spent most of my life in front of mirrors, self-analyzing every inch of my body on a daily basis from the age of 2.
I spent most of my life as a dancer completely disconnected from my body, eventually developing body dysmorphia and a plethora of disordered eating, eating disorders and over exercising. I could go on because everything is a syndrome, but you get the idea.
What yoga did is bring me fully back into my body. It allowed me to connect on a more profound level to my heart. This is why I appreciate a slower-paced practice these days, one that allows me to move into a shape and feel the sensations in my body, notice the mind in relation to the activity, and move from a place of complete integrity and mindfulness versus just a "kick-ass workout."
I am human, so of course have moments, days and weeks when I’m sizing myself up to what social media depicts as beautiful, strong and what a yogi should look like. However, yoga not only brings me connectedness to self but, within that, a sense of liberation. It frees me from crippling anxiety connected to being out of touch and out of control.
What about the connection between yoga and eating?
These days, food is something I enjoy. Cooking is meditative. Grocery shopping is something I love. Eating and savouring my meals is a time in my day I look forward to.
Today, my relationship to food is healthy. I sit down, take a moment in gratitude for nourishment, and enjoy every bite. I love hosting friends and family and preparing and sharing beautifully crafted meals. I truly enjoy delving into a nice cabernet from time to time and relish my piece of dark chocolate.
It’s been a journey of self-inquiry, self-discovery and, ultimately, self-acceptance. As I mentioned previously, I spent most of my teenage years and young-adult life in a depressive cycle. My fear of taking in too much created a grip so tight around my heart. The thought of losing control over my food would create physical illness: heart palpitations, stomach cramping and head spinning. It brought about years of anxiety attacks, mostly around social settings and food (generally, the two go together).
In yoga, we have the term saucha, meaning "purity." This is why you’ll see many yogis go through myriad cleansing techniques, especially juice fasts or food cleansing. I won’t get started on the topic of cleansing – that's a whole other article in itself.
What I will share is my experience in yoga practice with this idea of cleansing impurities. Here I was, thinking I had worked through my depression, no longer caught in the grip of disordered eating and feeling pretty good. That is, until I was introduced to the idea that I needed to cleanse my body – restricting calories, whole food groups and even food overall. Personally, this was probably the worst thing I could have taken on.
Cleansing for me is a trigger for old eating patterns or not eating. It imprints me with the feeling I’ve done something wrong and leaves me justifying every ounce of food I ingest. There are many layers to this specific relationship, but to sum it up: Yoga taught me to look deeply within and affirm for myself what is healthy, what is serving and what is not.
Today, I steer clear of cleansing fads. I love a green juice every now and then (usually in the summer). But I also love meals, food, quality organic meats – these fuel my body and allow it to function optimally. Not to mention how much more at ease I feel within my being and heart.
I now move from a place of gratitude – gratitude for this temple that is my body and for food that nourishes it. Yoga taught me to treat my WHOLE self with love, kindness and respect. It’s what keeps me coming back to my seat daily.
How has minimalism helped you heal?
I get anxious easily – in social settings, with too many choices, with too much of anything. I discovered that the anxiety was often triggered when I had to make decisions...when I had too much vastness to choose from. For example: "What do you want to be when you grow up? Anything is possible." To me, that was a death sentence. Give me option A or B, and I’ll take it from there.
I found that clearing out my space opened space in my mind. I love the ocean for the simple fact that the movement of water is soothing to me, and the vast open space softens the crowded space that was my mind and heart for so many years.
I own the essentials: a desk where I write and study, a sofa that I LOVE, a comfortable mattress. When it comes to clothing, I'm in the process to whittling it down to about ten items per season. It’s a work in progress. More often than not, I say less is more: less talk, less stuff, less busy. All with the goal of creating harmony and a steady state within mind, body and heart.
I have things. I like nice things – very nice things, in fact. I have simple and expensive tastes. The older I get, the more I just accept that. I’d rather have one expensive sweater that I love and will keep for years than ten mediocre sweaters that I don’t really love.
Clearing and cleaning out my space is therapeutic and alleviates any anxiety around taking in too much. And, like everything, it’s always evolving and shifting.
Could you walk us through your morning routine?
Mornings for me are most sacred. I’m an early riser – always have been. I wake up and the world is still quiet. Summer mornings are my favourite, because the light pouring through my window and the birds chirping are a reminder of the potential of the day ahead.
Upon rising, I sit for 20 to 30 minutes in silence. I light a candle, sometimes smudge, and bring in lightness for the day ahead.
I follow that with warm water and lemon and either a nice warm coffee or pu'erh tea.
How can people find you or learn more?
I'm always open to connecting and creating, and would love to meet you! Blessings, ABT
Thank you so much, Amanda! Your journey with yoga, body, food and minimalism is beautiful, resonant and deeply inspiring!