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“Taking Up Yoga Helped Me Overcome My Eating Disorder”

Posted on: by Megan Flemmit
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In partnership with adidas; Photographs by Donovon Thorne

When adidas locked onto the idea of ‘Sport has the power to change lives’, they recruited five our most-loved WH fit family to headline the campaign: Pop-Up Gym’s Letshego Zulu; Mapule Ndhlovu, Cara-Lisa Sham, Carmen Crous and Tracey-Lee Lusty. Whether sport changed their destiny or their health, eased their demons or vanquished their grief, their collective stories are so incredibly inspiring, we decided no amount of sharing them would be enough…

As Cara-Lisa Sham was learning how to walk, she was also learning how to dance. At the age of two she entered the magical world of ballet and promptly fell in love with it. “I was always spinning and prancing around at home, fascinated by ballet shoes and tutus and so my mom took me to ballet lessons to channel what was already a very keen interest in dance,” she recalls.

What started out as something magical, quickly turned into an obsession, as Cara fixated on perfecting her technique. “As a dancer, you are constantly under scrutiny, be it from your teachers, your peers or the audience in front of whom you perform”. While practice makes perfect, Cara wanted to be too perfect, too badly.

READ MORE: The Eating Disorder Trigger You’ve Never Heard Of Before

As a result she developed an eating disorder at twelve years old. It progressed slowly as she cut back on her food intake. “Eventually all I ate was half a slice of toast in the morning and a small cup of salad, consisting of lettuce and cucumber at night,” she explains. Undereating coupled with four hours of dancing per day, as well as athletics and netball led to extreme weight loss. “I honestly have no idea how my body coped with all of that,” she says.

Cara-Lisa Sham yoga still from Adidas Campaign

Despite her friends and family showing concern, Cara maintained her unhealthy eating habits. “The sense of power I felt from being able to control my food to such an extent became completely addictive,” she admits.

READ MORE: “This Is How Sport Saved Me After My Husband Passed Away”

A quote in one of Cara’s English setwork books was what eventually triggered her journey back to healthy eating. It read, “You are everything you believe you are, so start believing better.” It dawned on Cara that no-one else could “fix” her. “I realised how all the negativity was feeding myself was manifesting physically.”

On her journey to living healthily, Cara discovered yoga. One of the most powerful things yoga taught her was the deep connection between body and mind. The more she understood how interconnected the two were, the easier it became for her to let go of her toxic thoughts and move into a place filled with healing and self-love. “Don’t get me wrong, I have my down days and there are times were I feel that eating-disorder mindset rear its ugly head,”  she admits. “But the difference is, I am now equipped with the tools to move on from these times.”

READ MORE: The Powerful Way Sport Has Changed These 5 Women’s Lives

Applying what she learnt on the mat gave Cara valuable tools she needed in order to heal. “On the mat, our bodies can become tense when we are unable to do a particular pose, but once we surrender our minds, submit in the face of this stress, the pose becomes possible for us. Similarly in life, when we apply mental calmness in the face of stress, we are able to achieve our goals even in the face of adversity,” she explains.

Cara-Lisa Sham doing yoga for Adidas campaign

Cara’s journey inspired her to start the Caralishious brand. Through sharing health and wellness content, she continues to heal and hopes to help others heal, too. “I want to encourage people to nourish their bodies, to appreciate themselves and to look at food not as something bad, but as something that nourishes and heals.”

Want to give yoga a try and reap its many benefits? Stretch out your muscles with this 3-minute yoga warm-up, plus this 9-minute yoga routine will help you ditch lower-back pain. 

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