Monday, September 28, 2015

Yoga's healing power. Teen beats anorexia, credits practice.

At age eleven, Maris Degener, from Clayton, California, was the shy type. By middle school, her phobias toward food developed, due in part to feeling socially uncomfortable, she says.
“I felt that I lacked a solid identity and didn’t belong to a community,” says Degener, now age 17.

Her compulsive food behaviors worsened freshman year of high school, as she searched for...
something to fill her lonely void.
Courtesy Maris Degener
“I felt so awkward inside and like I needed to be less noticed,” says Degener.
Getting by on just one small daily meal, Degener ultimately reached the medical criteria for hospitalization. With her parents’ support, she entered in to a treatment program for three weeks.

“It stabilized me physically and I was allowed home on bedrest. Until then, I'd been impervious to how severe my eating disorder was and any kind of negative consequences from malnourishment,” says the teen.
Still “emotionally unhealed, and uninterested in fully recovering,” six months later, Degener says she was allowed to exercise and tried a free Vinyasa yoga class she’d spotted through an advertisement.
“Something clicked. I was able to make the connection between what was going on in my head and my body," says Degener. "It was as though they were two separate beings.  My breath was the linking component to come in to one cohesive being.“Yoga gave me more awareness. It brings you back to natural signals and wanting to nourish and get stronger.”
Degener gradually upped her yoga practice from once or twice weekly to daily, enjoying the freedom and philosophy it provided her.
“I'd never felt graceful, but Vinyasa yoga is particularly flowy and I loved the grace my teacher gave her class. A book on the Yamas and Niyamas (morals and ethics) also resonated with me, particularly the subject of non-violence to yourself and others,” says Degener.
Gaining physical and mental strength through yoga grew so fulfilling and fueling, Degener later decided she wanted to teach it.
“My teacher connected with me and offered me a teacher training scholarship. I couldn’t be more grateful. While intense, it was a good thing and something I really needed,” says Degener, who achieved her 200-hour certification last December.

Since then, the High School senior has taught other kids in her grade during lunch hour and this past May, at the yoga studio she practices at.

“I teach three classes a week,” says Degener. “I’m more comfortable teaching adults than kids. Adults have a stronger practice. I feel like I bring self-explorative, philosophical lessons. A lot of my classes tell a personal story. I encourage the power of sharing your personal story, being authentic, and learning from your experiences.”

Hoping to one day pen a book about her journey, Degener's immediate plans are to continue teaching, mentor others and focus on getting in to college. Since first sharing her story on CNN, she’s gained a healthy following on Instagram, and attracts 5000 daily views on her blog.
Admittedly, Degener says, “I’ll always consider myself in remission. An eating disorder is like cancer. It’s never really gone. There will be bad and good days, but I’m secure in who I am and know I’m taking care of my body to the best of my abilities. I’m in a clear place mentally and physically.”

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