How Yoga Can Help You Connect to your Body in Eating Disorder Recovery

Yoga is incredibly trendy for something that has been around for over 3,000 years [1]. Many are turning to this ancient practice to cultivate healing and wellness for their mind and body. This has been found useful in eating disorder recovery and body image repair as well.

Yoga Philosophies

The four primary philosophies of yoga are helpful in building 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 that what we do to one part impacts the whole machine [1].

The second philosophy emphasizes that individuals and their needs are unique; this must be considered in their practice, daily life, expectations, etc. [1].

Third, yoga is seen as self-healing and that, by “playing an active role in their journey toward health, the healing comes from within, instead of from an outside source and a greater sense of autonomy is achieved [1].” This outlook is also important as individuals work toward their own version of body love.

Finally, the fourth philosophy emphasizes that the quality and state of mind are incredibly important in healing. “When the individual has a positive mind-state healing happens more quickly, whereas if the mind-state is negative, healing may be prolonged [1].”

All of these principles are useful in yoga and in fostering a more positive relationship with one’s body and self.

Spending Time Together

Woman doing yogaIf your relationship with your body in your disorder was like those you have with a significant other, it would be time for couple’s therapy because the two of you are not communicating effectively.

In fact, you may have been putting a great deal of effort into not communicating – stuffing down emotions, ignoring sensations, and numbing any physically or emotionally uncomfortable your body may be sending.

Doing so is putting you at risk, as “body unawareness can lead to the development of body dissatisfaction, the highest and most robust risk factor related to ED [2].” Yoga is your couple’s therapist and can help you initiate contact with your body.

Yoga is more than a method of physical exercise because of its focus on internal and external sensations as well as mindfulness (which we will get to). Without having to strain your body, you can begin to tune into what it is telling you.

Doing so can help foster an appreciation of these powerful signals that your body shares and how it tries to protect and take care of you in this way. Our bodies are incredible, strong, adaptable, self-healing machines. They carry you through the happy moments and the challenging moments.

No matter what you have put it through, how you have altered its rhythm, deprived it of nourishment, or worked it excessively, your body is there, every day, fighting for you. Yoga gives you the opportunity to stop fighting and numbing and check-in with the amazing loyalty your body has to you.

Mindfulness

Mindfulness is a key part of yoga and can be a key tool for repairing your relationship with your body. We cannot be present and active in a relationship that we refuse to engage in.

Imagine if you attempted to work through relationship challenges with a partner without ever listening to them. 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 it or trying to change it.

This concept can be hard when one is recovering from an eating disorder, but imagine how much more you might love your body if you stopped judging it or trying to change it.

The possibility of connecting with, liking, and possibly loving your body, increases the more you open the lines of communication to that relationship. Yoga can help you do that and expand your recovery and your life more than you may have expected.


Resources:

[1] Woodyard, C. (2011). Exploring the therapeutic effects of yoga and its ability to increase quality of life. International Journal of Yoga, 4:2.

[2] Karlsen, K. E., et al. (2018). Effects of yoga in the treatment of eating disorders: a single-blind randomized controlled trial with 6-month follow-up. International Journal of Yoga, 11:2, 166-169.


About the Author:

Image of Margot Rittenhouse.Margot Rittenhouse, MS, PLPC, NCC is a therapist who is passionate about providing mental health support to all in need and has worked with clients with substance abuse issues, eating disorders, domestic violence victims, and offenders, and severely mentally ill youth.

As a freelance writer for Eating Disorder Hope and Addiction Hope and a mentor with MentorConnect, Margot is a passionate eating disorder advocate, committed to de-stigmatizing these illnesses while showing support for those struggling through mentoring, writing, and volunteering. Margot has a Master’s of Science in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Johns Hopkins University.


The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective on eating disorders. These are not necessarily the views of Eating Disorder Hope, but an effort to offer a discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.

We at Eating Disorder Hope understand that eating disorders result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an eating disorder, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.

Published October 8, 2020, on EatingDisorderHope.com
Reviewed & Approved on October 8, 2020, by Jacquelyn Ekern MS, LPC

About Baxter Ekern

Baxter is the Vice President of Ekern Enterprises, Inc. He is responsible for the operations of Eating Disorder Hope and ensuring that the website is functioning smoothly.