Written By: Katie Schipper
How Yoga and Eating Disorder Recovery Work Together
Like the complicated make-up of eating disorders, yoga and eating disorder recovery work together as multi-disciplinary and varied practices. They share variance – eating disorders on one parallel, and yoga as it’s spiritual counterpoint.
Like addiction, eating disorders are hard explain because causation is so varied. Also like addiction, eating disorders are difficult to treat, as recovery lies largely in the individual’s willingness to seek and accept treatment. There’s also the necessity of a varied approaches to treatment, including: therapy, inpatient facility stays, ongoing care, the willingness to be honest and persevere, and undoubtedly a spiritual component. This isn’t to say that a woman needs to find God to recover from her eating disorder, but rather that practices which affirm the value of mind-body-soul health are important.
For someone who’s struggled with eating disorders, there’s usually a component of exercise abuse. This can run the gambit from over-exercising to burn calories, to a fear of physical activity, to any variety of related issues. To avoid exercise abuse, the reintroduction of physical activity must be intentional and considerate. Also, a goal beyond weight loss and calorie burning must be present in any exercise routine. Practicing yoga for eating disorder recovery establishes these goals.
How Yoga Helps the Eating Disorder Recovery Process
Yoga is valuable for eating disorder recovery because of its grounding in mind-body connectivity and the variety of practices available. One of the most rewarding outcomes of practicing yoga is the profound sense of relaxation that follows. This serenity is a feeling foreign to women struggling with eating disorders. For some, it may be a feeling they’ve had only a handful of times, if ever at all.
So on a basic level, yoga reintroduces the participant to the concept of relaxation. More than any pose or posture, this is achieved through a class-long focus on breathing.
Inhale. Exhale. Inhale. Exhale
The postures are secondary, always, to the breath. So, what yoga really offers is a mediation in disguise. Utilizing meditation, through yoga and eating disorder recovery, is an extremely useful tool for those beginning to heal.
Getting Grounded With Yoga for Eating Disorders and Recovery
Yoga classes for those in recovery from eating disorders should be thoughtful. After all, for a group that’s been conditioned to view their bodies through a distorted lens and to obsess about appearance, the yoga studio should be traditional. This means it doesn’t have mirrors. Many modern yoga and dance studios are wall-to-wall mirrors. This isn’t be appropriate for yoga and eating disorder recovery.
Yoga classes should be chosen with the help of a therapist. The idea isn’t to introduce an intense hot yoga practice, or a cardio routine, but rather to build a practice that fosters relaxation and spiritual connection. When active in an eating disorder, the suffering woman usually loses all spiritual connection through her dissociation from feeling and sensation.
Yoga’s a Valuable Resource for Those in Recovery
Yoga and eating disorder treatment go hand-in-hand. This makes yoga a valuable practice and resource for anyone in recovery from an eating disorder. For women in early-recovery, yoga can be a life-changing tool. For those with long-term recovery, and even normies, it provides a sense of relief when approached from a traditional stance.
It’s wise to be aware of the potential for letting yoga become yet another symptom of an eating disorder. Because this potential exists, any woman struggling with an eating disorder should make sure her therapist or treatment center is involved with starting to practice yoga.