Yoga and Eating Disorders:
Ancient Healing for a Modern Illness
By: Carolyn Costin (Editor), Joe Kelly (Editor)
Chapter 1: Yoga: A Healing Journey, from Personal to Professional
By Carolyn Costin
Yoga Lessons Applied to Recovery and Life
Learning a concept through yoga makes it easier to see how the same principle applies elsewhere. Yoga helps instill concepts and beliefs that apply to the client's treatment and overall life.
For example, how clients handle savasana is usually an indicator of how they are doing in other areas of treatment and life. When better at savasana, clients are usually better at focusing or soothing themselves in general. Savasana specifically and yoga in general helps quiet a chattering mind and allows for acceptance of simply being in the moment. This is a formidable task for anyone, but especially for people with the constant banter of an eating disorder mind.
Neuroscience has made the importance of the mind/body connection abundantly clear, particularly in relationship to healing.
What we are learning about mindfulness practices, eating disorders and the brain suggests that over the next several years, mind/body techniques will show increasing efficacy in treating eating disorders. Yoga is one of the easiest ways to facilitate and develop mind/body awareness and connection. For example, when practicing yoga one learns that certain body postures are related to certain moods, that accomplishing a head stand requires letting go of one's preconceived ideas, and that you can subtly correct a posture without coming out of the pose if you stay in the present with mind/body awareness. Furthermore, the mind/body connection developed on the mat helps clients develop the same skill off it.
Accepting and Non-Comparing:
Yoga offers reminders of the need to accept where you are even while trying to change. In yoga you must work with your own body and at your own pace. To try to perform poses like someone else will not work. You have to do what is right for your body, learn your own strengths and weaknesses, discover how far to push and when to let go. Yoga helped challenge me to stop comparing myself to others. Not being able to do a hip opener has nothing to do with being better than somebody else. Everyone has such different strengths and weaknesses that have nothing to do with weight, talent, will power or worthiness.
Through yoga we get constant feedback that comparing ourselves to others on or off the mat can undermine and derail our own process.
Chapter 8: The Shadow Side of Yoga, by Laura M. Dunn
Yoga magazines and commercial studio classes may provide a quick introduction to yoga, but they too often portray yoga completely out of context. We see images of celebrities doing yoga ("to lose that pregnancy weight" or "to look years younger"), and we measure our success or failure against their external appearance.
The shadow side of yoga creates challenges for any practitioner—and especially for teachers and treatment providers working with the distorted body focus evident in individuals with eating disorders. Yoga teachers need to cultivate awareness of these conditions, and how an eating or body image disorder can turn yoga into yet another form of external focus and/or need for validation.
Carolyn Discusses 'Yoga and Eating Disorders: Ancient Healing for Modern Illness'