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I can still remember the sensation of dread when climbing on the treadmill back in 2000 to push through another grueling fifteen-minute uphill climb that, at the time, felt never-ending, torturous, boring and physically uncomfortable. I had just graduated from high school and weighed over 200 pounds. I felt lost and isolated under heavy layers of loathing that I packed on my senior year to escape my parents’ divorce. I’d moved suddenly from my home in South East Alaska, where I felt wild and free, to the silence of a wheat field in north Idaho.

In my waking life, I put on a brave face and assured my friends back home that I was living a fabulous, exciting life in the lower 48, but often I would awaken in the night, crying in my sleep.

I didn’t want anyone to know I was suffering and, for every emotion I refused to feel, I added another pound of fat to my body. Pretty soon, I didn’t even recognize the girl looking back at me in the mirror. It didn’t matter how many workouts I pushed through or what diet I tried: over the next four years, every time I was able to drop a size, it came at a huge energy cost and was short-lived.

It wasn’t until I returned to college in 2004 and began studying sports psychology, as part of an exercise science program, that it all began to click.

If I wanted to have a lasting weight loss, I was going to have to start dealing with the buried emotions from which I’d been trying to hide. I had tried therapy before and I knew it wasn’t for me. Sitting on a couch, pouring my heart out to a total stranger, wigged me out. I left feeling worse than when I arrived.

One day, as I sat in class listening to a lecture on the power of visualization for sports training, I had an idea: I decided to try adding emotional release to my exercise routine.

The results were astounding. Over the next few years, I lost a total of 60 pounds and was able to easily and effortlessly keep the weight off. In fact, at one point, I had to start adding high caloric superfoods into my diet because I had allowed my weight to get a bit too low! My energy soared through the roof and I began manifesting positive, powerful relationships that helped heal the hurts of the past and empowered me to take my life to the next level.

Letting go of that which keeps you feeling heavy will also allow you to lighten up your entire life—body, mind and soul. Here is a step-by-step process for adding a little emotional release to your workout regimen:

1. Identify the underlying emotions that keep you feeling and looking heavy. Write down negative emotions as they arise. No need to get too deep and detailed; just recognize if and when you feel resentment, anger, depression, jealousy or anxiety. Becoming aware of what you are feeling is half the battle. From there, you can begin the process of release, which has the power to lighten up your entire life.

2. Create a playlist with songs that touch on the issues you are facing. For example, when I felt anger toward my parents for not being able to stay true to their vows, I chose songs that dealt with emotions like abandonment and betrayal. Instead of trying to force a positive mindset and push emotions further inside, I allowed myself that hour in the gym to really delve into the hurt and let the feelings pass through me.

3. Include exercises that correspond with the energy centers in the body where these heavy emotions are stored. There are seven main energy centers in the body often called, “chakras.” Each energy center is home to a specific set of emotional circumstances. By locating where in the body each negative emotion was held, I was able to systematically clear the energy pathway to create more flow in my body and life.

4. Breathe into and through emotions. Often times when heavy emotions arise we hold our breath and resist the painful, uncomfortable sensation out of fear. Since “what you resist, persists,” this traps negative feelings inside the body, which can come to the surface when triggered. Try to focus on taking deep cleansing breaths and pushing air from deep in the pelvis, using the pelvic diaphragm.

5. Incorporate positive reinforcement. At the end of my workout, I would give myself praise for having the courage and strength to face my fears instead of denying or running from the uncomfortable sensations with food, drugs, alcohol or anything else. This positive self-talk becomes habitual and you begin to fall in love with yourself. And that attracts more positive powerful people and experiences into your life. 

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