The PHP/IOP program that I was recently at incorporates yoga into their treatment. At first, I was wary of how yoga could aid in my eating disorder recovery. It seemed irrelevant to my struggles and ineffective in my mind. There was a lot of hesitation in my mind as I began the program.
It turns out, yoga is an exceptional tool for eating disorder recovery, and can be transformative! One of my mentors, IDC’s yoga therapist BM, describes what I think is very true regarding individuals struggling with any form of disordered eating, “You become disconnected from your body. You have no connection to anything other than your mind, and you’re caught up in your head and eating disorder thoughts”. I most definitely identify with this. When you restrict for an extended period of time, your body is unable to connect to your hunger and fullness cues. You learn to ignore your bodies natural signals telling you it needs nourishment, rest, care, etc.
Yoga breaks down the disorder’s hold over your body. Yes, yoga can be transformative physically for your body and help with your health. But, yoga’s primary purpose is really about connection. Connection with your body, your whole self, your emotions, etc. It’s about learning to be mindful and present on your mat. For an eating disorder patient, it teaches you to move your body in a loving and healthy way. In class, you are encouraged to go to your edge. Your edge is where you are respecting your body and its needs that day; not being too gentle or too rough. You learn how to honor your body…something that an eating disorder takes away from you.
Personally, I have a history of sexual trauma/abuse, and my body felt like a war zone to me…I was terrified to acknowledge that I even had a body. In my mind, my body was the vessel that carried my abuse and pain. Through yoga, I learned to find pleasure in my body, through poses that felt good and flows that connected me positively to who I am. I learned that my body was not where my pain was stored…it was where my strength lies. I learned that yoga was a time where I felt like I have control over my body. It has been a painful, scary, challenging and uncomfortable process but ultimately transforming.
Yoga is a powerful tool. I highly suggest it as a mechanism for your body. Not just to someone recovering, but to anyone who is looking for a way to be active in a way that makes them feel good 🙂