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The benefits of Yoga for Eating Disorders

Lauren yogaBy Deborah Etienne-Ward

Yoga offers many benefits by promoting connectedness between the mind and the body. Yoga has been said to teach individuals to discriminate between body sensations and thoughts, promote self-care, reduce stress, increase self-awareness, provide an understanding of human suffering, and generally improve quality of life for many people (Douglass, 2011).

Of particular interest is the growing research to suggest that yoga can be beneficial to people who suffer from an Eating Disorder. A study by Carei, Fyfe-Johnson, Breuner, & Marshall, (2010) found that the addition of one hour of 1:1 yoga per week to outpatient interventions for adolescents with Eating Disorders lead to an increase in maintenance of treatment gains following the cessation of outpatient intervention. The study also found that yoga sessions appeared to have an immediate effect on decreasing pre-occupation with food. Furthermore, participants that received yoga alongside their standard intervention reported that yoga provided them a space in the week whereby they did not think about their weight. Interestingly, the addition of one hour of yoga per week did not result in weight changes. Yoga did not decrease weight among patients with Anorexia Nervosa, and weight fluctuations did not occur for those with Bulimia Nervosa. Energy expenditure is an area of common concern among treating professionals, parents, and carers. Therefore it is reassuring to know that one hour of yoga per week is a relatively safe practice for people with Eating Disorders as it is unlikely to result in weight loss (Carei, Fyfe-Johnson, Breuner, & Marshall, 2010).

Whilst research in the area is in its infancy, all of these benefits show promise for yoga as a useful tool in helping to maintain treatment gains. It may also be useful for relapse prevention. Body Matters offers 1:1 individual yoga classes via Skype through our partnership with Love Body Yoga. Please contact us or visit the Love Body Yoga website for more information.

References

Carei, T.R., Fyfe, Johnson, A.L., Breuner, C.C., & Marshall, M.A. (2010). Randomized Controlled Clinical trial of Yoga in the Treatment of Eating Disorders. Journal of Adolescent Health. 46(4), 346-351. doi:10.1016/j.jadohealth.2009.08.007

Douglass, L. (2011). Thinking Through the Body: The Conceptualization of Yoga as Therapy for Individuals With Eating Disorders. Eating Disorders, 19(1), 83-96. doi:10.1080/10640266.2011.533607

 

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