Interview with Taryn Strong
This week, Liv interviewed Taryn Strong. She's a recovery advocate, yoga teacher specialising in yoga for addiction, and co-creator of She Recovers.
Interview with Taryn Strong
Liv: Lets start off with what you had for breakfast? I took myself out for breakfast and enjoyed a “Paleo Breakfast Salad.” Toasted quinoa, baby kale, grilled sweet potato, tomato, cucumber, avocado, two free-run eggs and arugula pesto.
Liv: In your video you talked about your own struggle with drug abuse, disordered eating with cutting and unhealthy relationships. How do you think that experience makes you best placed to help others in a similar struggle? Humility and connection. I have been there. I have experienced the same struggles have the privilege of sharing my story – the ups and the downs, the tools that have guided me and the wisdom I have gained through my experience. Most importantly, my experience and sharing my journey helps relieve the shame and stigma – which in some cases is what keeps us stuck and sick. Although our stories are different - the core of our stories are the same. You will hear us say this a lot:
– “We can recover. We do recover. And we are stronger together.”
Liv: What did your disordered relationship with food look like? And how is it now?
I was a competitive Irish dancer. How we looked was a huge factor in how we scored in the competitions. So, my perfectionism and body image issues started there. I was always petite, but still very self-conscious about my body. When I started using cocaine at 16, my body weight dropped. I loved that I didn’t have an appetite and loved watching my body shrink. Then, when I stopped using one of my main concerns was gaining the weight back. I would try to only eat once or twice a day and would obsess over what I ate. My appetite had returned and I hated it. I didn’t eat much – but what I was eating was never healthy. There was a huge disconnect for me between using food to nourish my body – it was a concept I had no idea about – until I discovered yoga at age 19. I realized the importance of nourishing my body. I started to eat healthy because I noticed how shitty it felt to be doing yoga after eating unhealthy food or not enough food. My relationship with food these days is something that I do have to keep in check. Although I try to eat healthy, nurtrient dense food, I can forget to eat or have days where I don’t eat enough because I get busy and don’t make eating a priority. But, am very happy to report that my relationship with food and my body these days is very positive.
She Recovers on Yoga
Connection. The word “yoga” means “to yoke or union.” It’s a practice of reconnection. Reconnection with their bodies, with their breath, with themselves. While in active addiction –whether it’s an addiction to substances, people or certain behaviours – we are so disconnected. We are numbing out, dulling out, distracting ourselves from OURSELVES. We sometimes do the opposite of connect – we isolate. We feel alone, ashamed, guilty. For some, their bodies were once not a safe place to be – perhaps trauma related, or not. So, we come to the mat and it is just us, in our body, with our breath. No smartphones, jobs, relationships, substances, etc to distract us. And as we connect with our breath – we reconnect with our body and establish a healthy connection with our body. It is a safe place to be. We become present and mindful. We can’t always change what is happening in our life around us – but in any given moment we can change our posture and our breath – and then the other layers shift. Perhaps our mind gets quieter – even if it’s just for a moment – and what a relief! We learn tools with our breath to self regulate and balance the nervous system. And those effects follow us off of our mat and into our lives. Those new to using yoga as a recovery tool learn how to FEEL again. And it can be a very vulnerable place to be as we have been doing everything we can to not feel… But through being present with our feelings (physical, energetic, emotional) we discover that we will survive feeling our feelings. And be stronger for it.
Another huge healing effect is learning how to LET GO through the process of yoga. “Our biography becomes our biology.” So anything that happens to us – all of our experiences (the good and the bad) are stored in our body. Emotions and feelings that we don’t want to – or can’t – deal with in the moment– we store in our bodies. Nikki Myers calls it, “the issues in our tissues.” This explains why sometimes you will find yourself very emotional/crying/angry/etc on the mat and not sure why, have an old memory pop into your mind or not have that peaceful feeling you were hoping for after a yoga class. Because as we let go of tension in the body and find space in our muscles and fascia – we are also letting go of other stuff too! We are stirring shit up and it can really throw people off! But as we let go of the physical tension, we let go of mental tension and vice versa.
Liv: You say that the benefits of yoga transcend far beyond the physical benefits - what are they?
I could go on for days… -The physical benefits: releasing tension stored in the body, reconnecting with the body, using the body to self regulate, establishing a healthy relationship with your body -Mental/emotional benefits: quieting the mind, becoming aware of what our thoughts are and starting the process of eliminating the negative thoughts, becoming more present and mindful and in the moment -Spiritual: reconnecting with your Self, remembering who YOU are.
Taryn on Co-dependency
Liv: In your post in After Party Magazine you talked of co-dependency being a common theme for children of people with substance use disorder, how so?
In my case, at a very early age I took on the role of having to take care of other family members. I think this is a common theme because children are so intuitive and sensitive and feel or see their loved one struggling and not taking care of themselves! It’s a heavy burden for a young child to carry!
Liv: You said that you quickly knew that working within the addiction and helping people recover was your future; but that the traditional western approach didn’t resonate with you. What does and why?
A holistic, well rounded approach to recover resonates with me. Combining western AND eastern approaches. An approach which addresses the body, mind and spirit. When I was 16 I had two (yes, two) therapists and because I had parents in Narcotics Anonymous that was a big influence, as well. My earliest memories are attending 12 step meetings and NA camp outs. With therapy and 12 step programs – mind and spirit are addressed. And they are wonderful (not for everyone though.) And then yoga came into my life and the most profound transformation of my life stared to occur. (And I understand that yoga isn’t for everyone, either.) I left every class feeling like I had been cracked wide open – in a good way! I loved it! So what resonates and the perfect “recovery recipe” for me is an approach in which we are working on all of our layers – outer and inner. Body movement through dance, yoga or exercise, healthy eating, massage, acupuncture, sense therapy (essential oils), talk therapy, journalling, reading, time in nature and finding your like hearted tribe is so important.
Liv: You co-created She Recovers with your mother, Dawn, and you host and teach the recovery retreats - a dream of mine to attend - can you talk about their purpose and how one might benefit?
Would be such an honour to have you there! The purpose of the retreats is to create a space where woman can show up as they are, give them permission to be still and quiet within themselves and practice radical self care. I can confidently say that when you attend one of our retreats – you will leave transformed and with a new family of amazing sisters! We keep the schedule very simple – the transformation occurs from the women slowing down, being still, sharing and listening to others stories, being vulnerable, yoga, eating healthy and practicing listening to their bodies, their heart and intuition.
Liv: Tell me about the malas you create, and their benefits? Making malas is one of my meditations. We use natural gemstones and semi-precious stones which all have unique healing benefits. Some stones are grounding, some are porous and you can drop essential oils on them, others help heal broken hearts, etc. Traditionally, malas are a meditation tool. You recite a mantra or affirmation as your use your thumb to pass over each bead.
Liv: I love your blog post ‘Really Mr Sun Eff off’ in which you talk about processing feelings and say: ‘Now I'm fully committed- rain or shine. Fully present to every feeling as I peel away the layers and do what I need to do to truly shine brightly like a god damn disco ball.’ why do you think it is so difficult to process feelings as a person in recovery and what does the peeling reveal? If we are in recovery, chances are that we used substances and behaviours as a coping mechanism and to do whatever we could to not feel. And for a long time it worked – very well – until it didn’t. Feeling our feelings can be painful and for a long time we did everything we could to avoid pain. So, we have to learn to sit with our feelings and ride the wave! And it’s scary. You may feel raw and exposed and vulnerable – ouch! As we peel away the layers we get deeper and deeper into our wounds. But, it is so worth it. Sometimes what we are afraid of feeling is grief, anger, sadness – and sometimes what we are afraid of feeling is happiness, love, contentment. Another reason yoga is so powerful – we learn to be present with our feelings. We can experience a wide range of feelings in one yoga class – and we breathe through it, flow through it and sink right into it.
Eat Pray Love
I had a ticket to go to Mexico for one month (was going to extend my trip after hosting a retreat in Mexico.) As the time was approaching, I kept thinking about how Mexico feels like my second home (I am so damn lucky for that.) I am familiar with Playa del Carmen, I know my way around, I can get by with very little Spanish, I have a local yoga studio I always visit for crying out loud. But I was craving and aching for an adventure. I wanted to experience jet lag, and not having a clue where the hell I was or what I was about to eat, and meeting new people from all over the world. And my heart was saying Bali. All I knew was that Bali was a huge yoga hub with a yoga studio that I was on my bucket list to visit (The Yoga Barn.) And Bali delivered. If anyone gets a chance to go – GO. In fact – join us for our yoga retreat in Bali in 2017. :)
Liv: Wow, I could read about you all day, you’re a fascinating women! I have two more questions… what is your favourite meal?
Tacos (dairy free.) Anything Mexican is my absolute favourite.
Taryn's Recovery Tools
Liv: And what are your top 5 recovery tools? -Yoga/meditation -Essential Oils -My newest tool: EFT -Spending time at the beach/in a forest -Journaling/writing