At the age of 18, Kyla Fox was in a life-threatening battle with the eating disorder that had taken control of her every move and thought. The prison of her mind, she said, would keep her locked in deadly patterns of food restriction, binging, purging and addicted to over-exercising for a number of years.
These behaviours would take a serious toll on her body and mind, causing fainting spells, brain fog, blurred vision, changes in her hearing, and varying levels of numbness. But, it wouldn’t be until the symptoms became life threatening that she realized something needed to change.
“I had one of the scariest experiences in the car with my mother one day,” Fox explained. “We were stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic and my legs and arms started going numb. I felt incredible pressure and pain in my chest and couldn’t breathe. My hearing blocked out and my vision went blurry. I was rushed to the hospital.”
Fox said she became terrified of dying. She began dealing with debilitating panic attacks, but felt powerless to stop on the deadly road she was walking.
“At the root of it I didn’t want to die,” Fox said, “and the fact that I had lost so much control, which was never the intention, became overwhelmingly frightening for me. I couldn’t believe I had gotten here. And I became desperate to get well.”
However, the road to recovery would prove more difficult for Fox when the resources she needed to deal with her disorder weren’t available. She was put on waitlists for months and didn’t connect with the professionals she went to see, leaving room for her to lie about her eating patterns and not be held accountable for the behaviours that needed to stop.
“I felt like the professionals I was sent to see didn’t necessarily understand eating disorders the way that I needed them to,” she said.
As a result, Fox relied heavily on the ongoing support and structure of her family to help her through the painful healing process. They set up protocols to get her eating again, and she began to work through and understand what was at the root of her disordered eating.
But one experience entered her life unexpectedly – one that would change her way of being forever. Through the coaxing of her older brother, Fox was introduced to her first yoga class.
“It was a surreal experience for me,” she said. “I never really understood what yoga was. I thought it was this boring fad involving slow stretching and meditating – two things I was not into! I didn’t realize the capacity for being moved spiritually, emotionally and mentally.”
While she wasn’t able to fully participate due to her condition, Fox decided to return again with her brother. After classes, she felt a new sense of calm that would open the door for her to feel more comfortable with feeding her body while she sat with her brother after class. This added a deeper level of connection to herself and her life that she realized was missing as a result of her eating disorder.
“Recovery is complex and requires so many intersecting areas of healing to happen simultaneously – all these things that make you feel full in your life so that you don’t need to be empty in your body,” she said.
As her yoga practice deepened, Fox said she realized establishing this reconnection with her own being was fundamental to her recovery process.
“When you’re affected by an eating disorder, your mind and body do not align. Recovery is about re-establishing this alignment and yoga was the body-portion of this work (for me) that allowed this to develop.”
Almost 20 years after her recovery began, Fox is now the founder and owner of the Kyla Fox Centre in Toronto, an outpatient eating disorder recovery centre specializing in individual treatment for those suffering from eating disorders. She started the centre to help fill the gaps in treatment available in Toronto, given her personal challenges with finding proper treatment.
As part of the comprehensive clinical treatment available at the Kyla Fox Centre, clients may have yoga incorporated into their recovery plan to help them begin to heal their own disconnection.
All the deadly patterns enforced by her eating disorder have officially left her life, Fox said. And, she now teaches at the yoga studio her older brother once dragged her to when she needed it most.
“Here’s the thing, yoga alone will not eradicate eating disorder behaviours. It can, however, act as a fundamental piece to your recovery. Not everybody on the planet is going to connect with it [yoga],” she said with a chuckle. “I think for me it just deeply resonated. You have to believe in the things you do in order to be moved to heal, and I deeply believe in yoga.”
Photos by Denise Militzer