Thursday, September 9, 2010

Yoga Therapy for Eating Disorders

Though I first began practicing yoga a few years ago (when my eating disorder was first beginning), I never considered it a form of therapy. I stopped practicing yoga once I became so obsessed with weight loss. I spent my time running and jogging and doing other more strenuous forms of cardio that would yield the quickest results. I was most interested in pilates (which I still adore). Though it is grounded in yogic principles, pilates satisfied the burn yoga didn't. By the time I was very ill, I barely did yoga at all. When I did, it was when I was too weak or tired or dizzy or sick to do anything else, and even then, I didn't put all of my heart, mind, or ability into it. Consequently, I stopped practicing yoga as my eating disorder progressed.

Since I have been in recovery, I have fallen in love with yoga in a way I never thought I would. It's calming yet strangely energizing. It's positive. It allows you connect, listen to, and understand your body. It reinforces the importance of having a strong, sound body as well as a strong, sound mind that work in connection to one another. These are all staples of recovery, though I never thought to make the connection between yoga and recovery from an eating disorder. I know there has been tons of research conducted and articles written about yoga's positive effects on the recovery from anorexia in particular and I've read many of them. At first, I didn't buy into it. Like anything else, I didn't think yoga would help me recover because I didn't think I could recover. I didn't want to recover. I know now that nothing will work unless you make it. You can't *fully* recover until you want it, until you put just as much energy into being well as you used to put into being sick.

Now I integrate yoga into my daily life. When I practice yoga now, not only do I try to understand my body, I try to heal my body. One article on states that anorexia and other eating disorders are viewed as "a dysfunction of the first chakra in the yogic energetic system." A different article appearing on the same website says:

"Yoga practitioners reported less self-objectification, greater satisfaction with physical appearance, and fewer disordered eating attitudes compared to non-yoga practitioners. Through yoga, this study suggests that women may have intuitively discovered a way to buffer themselves against messages that tell them that only a thin and 'beautiful' body will lead to happiness and success."

And later:

"Yoga, highly therapeutic and relatively non-threatening, is the ideal therapy: a gentle reawakening of the mind and a soft embrace of the body, all helping to get patients back into the land of healthy living."

This is the kind of therapy I prefer. I don't like doctors. I don't like nurses or hospitals or weigh-ins or therapists or nutritionists. I'm not saying those methods don't work because they certainly do. They are vital and necessary, at least at first. Of course all of those things played a part in my initial short-term recovery. As far as long-term recovery goes, I'm finding things like yoga, meditation, and just plain soul searching have been the most helpful and therapeutic. I don't think yoga alone can rid me of my eating disorder. I also don't think it was as effective in the earliest stages of my recovery when I was still unable to separate disordered thinking from normal thinking. But, combined with other means of recovery, it has been very effective, rewarding, and worthwhile.

Here are the links to two interesting articles with some images and descriptions of the yoga poses that are thought to aid in the recovery of eating disorders.

Yoga Therapy

Ten Yogasanas for Anorexia


  1. I always thought yoga was way too hard. Every time i tried it on dvd the instructor was really really flexible and i'm probably the least flexible person ever. But now that i see it's useful in recovery, i'll probably try it again. Thanks (:

  2. I too have had success with yoga in recovery. It has to specifically be relaxation yoga for me...something about the serenity of it is so beneficial to body acceptance.