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Using Yoga to Recover from an Eating Disorder


For years, yoga practitioners have touted the benefits of enhanced mind-body connection. And now, the Psychology of Women Quarterly reports that yoga is associated with fewer symptoms of eating disorders than other, more traditional forms of exercise.

Relief from Over Exercise

Many people engaging in over exercise behaviors initially discount yoga because it does not feel like a “real” workout (i.e., one that burns calories and pours out sweat). The same goes for people suffering from other eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia who believe they must feel like they’re working hard to receive the benefits of exercise.

Yoga provides relief from this mentality because it focuses on strengthening the body, the mind, and the connection between the two. Gentle forms of yoga, such as yin or restorative, will allow eating disorder patients to break the cycle of regimented exercise behaviors. It allows you to feel your body and look inside yourself, rather than focusing on outer results.

The instructor controls the pace and flow of the class, meaning that patients must let go of their tight hold on routine to really participate. Yoga practitioners are much more sensitive to the connection between their bodies and positive views of the self, making it a wonderful supplement to traditional treatment techniques.

Yoga Treatment

Throughout class, yoga instructors provide gentle reminders to let go of negative thoughts and to forget about competing with other class members. The message is that the body changes from one day to the next, and something you could do yesterday may not be possible today. This helps eating disorder patients recognize that they won’t always have control over situations. Healthy coping strategies will complement yoga practice as patients learn to accept themselves and their bodies.

Another benefit of yoga is the increased focus on the breath. Special breathing techniques introduced in yoga may be utilized throughout the day when patients begin to feel stressed or overwhelmed, or when they feel the onset of disordered eating behaviors. Disordered eating is often a way of disconnecting oneself with the body, so yoga and the associated breathing and meditation techniques restore that connection.

Different Types of Yoga

Yoga may provide many benefits for a lot of eating disorder patients, but it’s not for everyone. Certain types of yoga, such as power yoga and Bikram yoga, focus more on fitness and competition than restoring peace of mind. If you do not agree with an instructor’s philosophy, don’t hesitate to look for yoga elsewhere. Not every style will work for every body.

Source: Casa Palmera and Eating Disorders Review