Yoga and Eating Disorder Recovery

Monday, Nov 16  •  

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Yoga has been around for over 3,000 years and has been a longstanding programming component at Avalon Hills. A common finding for those who are dealing with an eating disorder that is evident in both the research literature and our clinical wisdom is the disconnection between mind and body. Yoga allows patients to start gently exploring how to be increasingly present in their bodies. As part of our program, yoga is used as a way for clients to foster body acceptance and develop a new relationship with exercise. 

Philosophies of Yoga

The four primary philosophies of yoga help build respect and love for one’s body in recovery. The first, viewing the body as holistic, encourages the understanding that the body is not a bunch of random parts, and what we do to one part impacts the whole machine. The second philosophy emphasizes that individuals and their needs are unique. Third, yoga is seen as self-healing and that by making an effort towards health, the healing comes from within, rather than from an outside source. This outlook is important as individuals work toward their version of body love. Finally, the fourth philosophy emphasizes that the quality and state of mind are incredibly important in healing. When an individual has a positive state-of-mind, healing happens more quickly. All of these principles are useful in yoga and in fostering a more positive relationship with one’s body and self.

Communication

When suffering from an eating disorder, there is often a lack of effective communication between self and body. Stuffing down emotions, ignoring sensations, and numbing any physical or emotional discomfort are all efforts to disrupt communication. 

Body unawareness, or lack of communication, can lead to the development of body dissatisfaction, and the highest and most robust risk factor related to an eating disorder. Yoga is a great tool in initiating contact with one’s body.

Yoga is more than a method of physical exercise because of its focus on internal and external sensations. Without having to strain your body, yoga allows one to tune into what their body is telling them. 

Mindfulness

Mindfulness is a key part of yoga and can be an important tool for repairing a client’s relationship with their own body. One cannot be present and active in a relationship that we refuse to engage in. Mindfulness encourages existence and connection in the present moment as it is. Not only that, yoga encourages individuals to be mindful of the moment without judging or trying to change it. This concept is difficult for individuals recovering from an eating disorder, however, imagine how much more someone might love their body if they stopped judging it or trying to change it. 

Our yoga teacher, Taylor Bird, has been a long-time yogi. Taylor received her yoga teacher certification from the prestigious Yandra Yoga School. Avalon Hills offers group classes as well as individual or small group sessions based on each patient’s treatment plan. Staff yoga sessions are offered as well because we believe in practicing what we preach. Self-care and meditative practices are part of our organizational values.

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