It is no secret that Eating Disorders have a significant impact on both the physical body and the mind. This impact typically manifests as a disconnect between the body’s physical wants and needs, and the mind’s beliefs about those wants and needs. Mind Body Interventions, such as yoga, meditation, and breath work provide integrative experiences for accessing the connection of both body and mind to work towards recovery from an Eating Disorder .
Mind Body Interventions consist of a variety of therapeutic modalities such as yoga, meditation, and breath work, among others. When modalities such as these are provided with therapeutic support, clients can experience an increase in mental and physical flexibility [1, 2, 3].
These factors help to alleviate the disconnect between body and mind as well as ease symptoms of anxiety and depression, which often accompany Eating Disorders [1, 2].
Interventions such as meditation and breath work provide opportunities for clients to gain greater awareness of their emotions, where those emotions are within the body, and how those emotions feel in the body. This insight provides opportunities for greater integration of body and mind through increased emotional awareness, release, and regulation [1, 3].
This increase in emotional body-based awareness can help clients to process their experiences more fully by moving through the emotional experience rather than remaining stuck in old emotions and patterns, leading to greater well-being [1, 2].
Physiologically, Mind Body interventions work to support health in many areas of the body. Through these interventions, the lymphatic system becomes activated, there is an increase in lung capacity and an increase in heart rate variability.
Within the brain, there is activation of the prefrontal cortex, which is the area of the brain associated with fear inhibition, executive functioning, and attention span as well as the right frontal lobe of the brain, which is the area associated with spirituality and openness [1, 3].
Additionally, Mind Body interventions work to stimulate the vagal nerve, which runs from the brain stem to the colon and is vital in regulating all basic survival functions such as digestion, heartbeat, and breathing.
When our bodies are in a state of wellness, and our minds are in a state of openness, it is easier to shift from the survival state of the fight, flight, or freeze response of the sympathetic nervous system and into the thriving integrative calm of the parasympathetic nervous system [1, 2, 3].
Perhaps most importantly, Mind Body interventions provide opportunities to bring into awareness what is beautiful and true. So much of what impacts an Eating Disorder is trauma, attachment wounds, and co-occurring conditions like anxiety, depression, or other mental health issues.
And while it is important to bring those histories and conditions into our awareness, it is also true that there is still breath in our bodies and hope for recovery. Focusing on the breath, the ease that can be found in our bodies, and the beauty around us all work to shift us from the small self to a greater, more integrated awareness of our life, our experience, and what our futures can hold [1, 2].
References: Weintraub, A. (2012). Yoga skills for therapists: Effective practices for mood management. New York, NY. W.W. Norton and Company.  Marsh, S. (2015). Hunger, hope, and healing: A yoga approach to reclaiming your relationship to your body and food. Boston, MA. Shambhala Publications.  Curran, L. (2013). 101 Trauma-informed interventions: Activities, exercises and assignments to move the client and therapy forward. Eau Claire, WI. PESI Publishing and Media.
About Our Sponsor:
Fairhaven Treatment Center is a leading eating disorder treatment center that provides treatment for adult women and adolescent girls struggling with Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa, Binge Eating Disorder and Other Specified Feeding or Eating Disorder (OSFED).
Fairhaven specializes in working with eating disorders with co-occurring post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), trauma and attachment disorder, and a history of addiction and substance use disorder.
About the Author:
Dana Ingram, M.Ed., RYT is a Mind Body Therapist at Fairhaven Treatment Center in Cordova, TN. Dana specializes in Mind Body Interventions including yoga, meditation, and mindfulness practices as well as Equine Assisted Therapy. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Religious Studies and a Master of Education in Instructional Design. Dana is a registered yoga and meditation teacher with a passion for breath work and mantra meditations. Dana is inspired by truth and beauty in all of its forms and finds it most easily in nature, yoga, and poetry. To learn more about Dana and Fairhaven Treatment Center go to fairhaventc.com
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 December 4, 2019, on EatingDisorderHope.com
Reviewed & Approved on December 4, 2019, by Jacquelyn Ekern MS, LPC