How yoga can benefit patients with eating disorders

As yoga has become mainstream in the West, its potential health benefits have also been widely recognized. Yoga is obviously not just a fashionable pastime-but does it have special benefits for patients with eating disorders?

General benefits of yoga

According to the Yoga Alliance, “Yoga was first developed in India 5,000 years ago. It is a comprehensive health system: physical, mental, emotional and spiritual.” Although there are many ways to practice yoga, all yoga methods are Committed to improving health. The most common practice of yoga is to combine stretching and body posture with deep breathing, mindfulness, and meditation.

Yoga can help improve health, strength, balance and flexibility. It has been shown to reduce pain and help adapt to symptoms related to diseases such as diabetes, asthma, multiple sclerosis and cancer. It can also improve sleep and help reduce anxiety and depression. In addition, practicing yoga in the studio can provide the ability to connect with others and create a sense of belonging.

Although the mechanism by which yoga produces these benefits is not fully understood, studies have shown that yoga increases the levels of the brain neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), which helps fight anxiety and depression.

It seems that mindfulness meditation is a common component of yoga, and it is related to changes in the volume of certain areas of the brain that are thought to be involved in regulating emotional responses. Brain research has observed that these changes occur in the brain of meditators who meditate for 30 minutes a day for eight weeks.

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Yoga may help the cause of eating disorders

Residential eating disorder treatment centers are increasingly adding auxiliary treatments such as yoga to their products. Many patients and therapists have noticed the benefits of yoga, but there are only a few formal studies:

  • In one study, adolescents who participated in outpatient eating disorder treatments for yoga showed greater reductions in eating disorder symptoms.
  • Another study showed that the combination of yoga and mindful eating can reduce binge eating among adult female outpatients with binge eating disorder.
  • A preliminary study showed that in addition to standard multidisciplinary outpatient treatment for eating disorders, girls who participated in yoga also reduced anxiety, depression, and body image disorders.
  • A study of adults showed that people who practice yoga have higher physical satisfaction, while those who previously had lower physical satisfaction showed greater improvement.
  • A study of adults with bulimia nervosa showed that the psychopathology of eating disorders was reduced after the yoga group treatment during the posttest and 6-month follow-up.

There is reason to believe that yoga may be helpful for patients with eating disorders. People with eating disorders often experience negative and distorted body images. Yoga encourages self-acceptance and peace. It helps practitioners experience their bodies in different ways. Yoga does not focus on their appearance, but helps practitioners to experience their bodies from the inside, consciously, and without judgment. In fact, studies have shown that yoga can reduce dissatisfaction with the body and the desire to lose weight.

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Yoga may help improve body image.

Yoga combines the practice of relaxation, mindfulness, and breathing strategies. These practices are all experience-supported treatments for anxiety disorders, which are a common component of eating disorders.

Psychologist Robin Boudette is a supporter of yoga for the treatment of eating disorders. He provides a qualitative description of the following benefits:

“Yoga also enables patients to experience their body in a new way. Living in a society that values ​​appearance rather than feeling, patients with eating disorders usually see the body as an ornament; they suffer the pain of being out of touch with the body, feeling, Appetite and inner experience…Many patients understand the body’s sensation more than its appearance—this opens a window to new experiences of the body on a yoga mat.”

How to start yoga

One of the advantages of yoga is that it is widely available and reasonably priced. However, it should be used as an adjunct to other more traditional treatments, not as a standalone treatment for eating disorders.

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Please note that not all patients with eating disorders are suitable for practicing yoga. Excessive exercise is a common symptom of eating disorders, and people with eating disorders may practice yoga in an unhealthy, compulsive way. Any exercise performed during the recovery period should only be done in moderation and with the permission of your treatment team. For many people, especially those with restrictive eating disorders, exercising completely during the early recovery period can be dangerous. Finally, the intensity of hot yoga or hot yoga can be dangerous and may not provide the same mindfulness benefits as traditional yoga.

If yoga is right for you, it is important to find yoga teachers and studios that support all body types and sizes. If you are recovering from an eating disorder, you should avoid teachers and workshops that actively encourage the use of clean, fast, or restrictive diets. Although these are sometimes related to the yoga lifestyle, they are not traditionally part of yoga and are incompatible with the recovery of eating disorders.

Taking yoga gently and cautiously may help promote recovery and bring about greater self-awareness and self-acceptance. Relaxation and mindfulness learned from yoga practice may also be useful recovery tools. You can read the introduction to some basic postures to get started.