While the causes of eating disorders are as complex and numerous as the individuals living with the diagnosis, often the solutions to living with an eating disorder and being in recovery, are simpler. We must eat to provide our bodies with vital energies and the practice of yoga is in large part a practice of building prana in the body. A regular practice of yoga is a great tool for anyone living with an eating disorder.
First, yoga helps calm the mind, helps the practitioner be more in touch with their mental thoughts, activates the parasympathetic nervous system and pranayama helps improve digestive function. Many postures in yoga can create positive feelings. Caught in a negative feedback loop, a person in the midst of a disordered eating episode can use the physical posture such as tadasana, mountain pose, to help break the loop. Forward folding asanas give a person a chance to be introspective. For a person who uses food as a coping mechanism for daily stress, yoga can be a placeholder for the guilt ridden disordered eating patterns. And loving kindness for yourself can be cultivated during postures such as apasana, hug your self. Loving oneself gives a person value, allowing them the space to make healthier decisions.
Emotions such as guilt, shame, desire to isolate, depression, and emptiness are common occuring elements of disordered eating, yoga can counteract these feelings. Completing a yoga class can boost self confidence, help establish social connections, and give the practitioner a sense of purpose and wholeness. The grounding practices and rooting of the muladhara, root chakra, can help to stabilize the internal landscape. Opening the heart can instill feelings of value and self love.
Mindful eating is a pillar to the recovery process and mindfulness on the mat can be translated into other parts of life including with the knife and fork. Yoga helps teach delayed gratification and self mastery.
The need for more and more is a function of the mind which can be calmed. At times, eating disorders can be stimulated and heightened when the mind wants and wants without understanding that need and want are different things. The practice of yoga teaches us to be happy with what we have. To be happy with how our body is and gives us space to practice gratitude. To any person living with an eating disorder, the practice of yoga can be a critical part of a recovery plan.
Yoga can fill the emptiness that food never will.