James Downs, 28, from Cardiff struggled with severe mental health problems from his mid-teens. Developing OCD during his school years, he later encountered difficulties around body image and food, eventually resulting in him developing anorexia. Losing nearly half of his body weight and risking heart failure from low potassium levels, James managed to finally get help for his eating disorder after a 6-year struggle of trying to access specialist support.
Now well into recovery, James has been able to take up a place studying psychology at Cambridge University and has also successfully trained as a yoga teacher. Looking to put his new skills to use, he has organised a pop-up yoga class in Cardiff on Saturday 8th July, from 2 – 3:30pm in St Teilo’s Church, Woodville Road, Cathays, which will raise funds for the Cardiff-based Service for High Risk Eating Disorders (SHED).
SHED provides specialist help for sufferers of severe eating disorders and their families across the whole of South East Wales. Through SHED, James received the life-saving treatment he needed to reclaim his life from anorexia and bulimia, after which he volunteered with the service and became a key member of the Cross-Party Group for Eating Disorders in the Welsh Assembly.
Explaining he motivation to raise money for eating disorders services, James says; “the support I had from the team at SHED meant that I was finally able to regain some control over my life after many years in the grips of a severe eating disorder which nearly killed me. It seems natural to me now to do what I can to support their work which I know from experience saves lives.”
“The therapy I took part in with the eating disorders team made me realise that there was more to life than food and body image, and I was encouraged to take up hobbies and build my quality of life. I found yoga to be so helpful in accepting myself physically and mentally, and a good opportunity to practice mindfulness and meditation in a more everyday setting. Yoga didn’t cure me from my eating disorder, but alongside therapy it has helped me to find balance.”
The yoga event, “Yoga Against Eating Disorders” will be a 90-minute class of dynamic yoga postures set to music within a beautiful historic setting. Entry is free, but all donations big and small will go towards the work of SHED. The class will be accessible to all levels – experienced yogis and beginners alike – and will be followed by a selection of cakes and refreshments.
As well as raising funds, James hopes that the event will raise awareness of eating disorders and start conversations around mental health, body image and wellbeing in general. “Everyone knows someone with an eating problem, and eating disorders are the most deadly of all mental health conditions. The more we can talk about all kinds of mental health problems, the more we can help to reduce their stigma and the barriers people face to accessing help” says James. “This event not only means a lot to me personally. If it makes a difference to at just one person struggling with an eating disorder through the work of SHED then it will be a massive success.”
To support James’ campaign, you can attend the event on the 8th July or donate towards funds for SHED at https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/yogaagainsteds.
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