A fitness expert reveals a journey of transformation — from depression, detachment, and eating disorders — to a healthy, connected life of movement
I grew up as a dancer. You may think being a dancer must be fabulous (and it can be), but let me tell you — it’s a lot of pressure to feel like you always have to be skinny and perfect!
I looked at the other dancers — some of them were tall and really skinny with legs for days. I, on the other hand, was just 5’4” and starting to get curves. I thought I was supposed to look like those other girls, so I not only monitored everything I put in my mouth, I obsessed over it. What I didn’t know is that when you don’t eat, your anxiety and obsessive behavior only get worse.
My need for perfection escalated when I went off to earn a dance degree in college. It was strange to be graded on my every move. The joy was sapped right out of me, and suddenly, dancing became only about becoming a better dancer. I began to believe that whatever I did and how I did it was never enough. I believed I wasn’t enough.
As I continued through that first semester, I began to feel really ‘off’. It got harder and harder to drag myself to dance class each day. I didn’t feel like socializing, and in my down time, all I wanted to do was sleep.
Then I came across a magazine article about depression. It listed the symptoms, and I was shocked to recognize myself within them.
Really? I was depressed? How did this happen?
Keep in mind, this was before there were hundreds of drug commercials on TV offering up a solutions for depression. It wasn’t talked about that much, so the stigma was even more widespread than it is today.
After reading that article, I still felt alone, but I was relieved to find out there was a name for what I was experiencing and perhaps even some help for it. But before I could do anything about my depression, I received news that dwarfed everything.
My mother was diagnosed with ovarian cancer.
It further shook every foundation I had managed to build in my young life. The idea that I could possibly lose my mom before I was 20 made me feel helpless and out of control.
Even so, there was an amazing aspect to the experience. Mom had always believed in the mind-body connection, so while she had chemotherapy and a hysterectomy like her Western doctors advised, she also found a wonderful cancer wellness center where they taught meditation, Tai Chi, and nutrition.
When I was home from school, I watched my mother in awe. She wasn’t about to let her illness stop her. Every day, she put on her cute hat to cover her bald head, and went out into the world, making the most of whatever energy she had. The power of her fierce attitude taught me a lot about how to be in the world.
My mom has always been a profound role model for me, but her courage throughout this challenge turned her into superwoman in my eyes. And I’m happy to report that all these years later, my mom is here and doing great!
Thanks to her, I became aware of how much power my mind has on my ability to heal, and I was determined to make a change for the better.
Using my mom’s example as inspiration to heal my depression, I sought help. I started seeing a therapist and attending a local yoga class.
The yoga class was taught by an old man with a long white beard. I instantly loved the spiritual aspect of yoga in which moving the body teaches devotion, intention, and connection with the divine, even if yoga was a bit of a ‘no-no’ among dancers at the time. I still loved dance, but it included a lot of pressure. Yoga was movement with an entirely new dimension that didn’t only feel good to my body, it also nurtured my soul. And my poses didn’t have to be perfect!
Then, during a visit home from school, I came across a book in my parents’ basement. It was called The Greatest Salesman in the World, by Og Mandino. Now, I wasn’t planning to go into sales, but this book contained daily readings filled with lessons on success in life, not just sales. Each lesson was to be read three times a day and contained affirmations or positive phrases that immediately attracted my attention.
And while I didn’t sell anything, I did start to feel a whole lot better just by virtue of thinking more positive thoughts. I didn’t yet know how to use my body to help me reinforce those positive thoughts and manifest what I wanted, but Mandino’s book planted an important seed in me.
It wasn’t until years later and living in New York City when I started coaching, that my clients would tell me how hard they’ve tried to follow all the advice they’ve been given about creating a life and a body they love.
They had written their affirmations, created their vision boards, chanted mantras, meditated, and on and on. Yet they continued to contend with self-doubt, perfectionism, procrastination, depression, anxiety, or all of the above.
They still found it hard to stick up for themselves, take good care of their bodies, or allow their authentic selves to step out into the world. They struggled to figure out what they wanted, or they couldn’t seem to create it in their lives, whether it was a job, love, or financial security.
I’ve come to understand that so many of our efforts don’t create a lasting impact because they don’t include all of who we are.
The power and energy of these glorious bodies we were given aren’t used nearly enough.
Writing down affirmations is an excellent exercise and a great place to start, as it begins to engage and change the mind. Chanting mantras is also wonderful because your physical voice is involved in the process. Meditation is powerful, because it reduces stress and improves concentration. Now imagine, if you could take the benefits of all of these practices and combine them into one full body experience! This is what happens when you take a focused, powerful mindset and put it into motion.
Over the last 10 years, I have developed my own process that combines dance, yoga, coaching, meditation, and transformation. I’ve taught over 90,000 students online and in person.
I’ve taken all those years of experience, and my best coaching techniques, and turned them into a new book, Mantras In Motion: Manifesting What You Want Through Mindful Movement, where I teach my methods of combining mind, heart and body practices to help you achieve the sweet life that you desire.
If you’re ready to get out of your head and get more connected to your body, if you want to manifest your desires with flow and eases, I’d love to show you how.
Movement in your body, creates movement in your life…the whole of your best self!
Check out my new book and to get an exclusive 5 minute Movement & Mantra Workout, my FREE gift to you.
You may also enjoy Best Self Yoga Flow for Flexibility and Relaxation with Carter Miles