Chief Marketing Officer Julie Holland, MHS, CEDS has been named the National Eating Disorders Examiner. Read an exceprt from her blog on therapeutic yoga used in eating disorders treatment below, or to read it in its entirety, click here.
Therapeutic yoga and eating disorders treatment
It’s commonly thought that eating disorders treatment
strictly involves medical stabilization, psychological support through sessions with clinicians and collaboration with dietitians to return to and maintain a healthy weight for lasting recovery. However, many eating disorders
treatment centers around the country actively support alternative forms of therapy and treatment. From massage to art therapy to psychodrama and music, holistic therapies provide alternative channels through which eating disordered individuals often feel more comfortable expressing themselves and processing painful emotions.
When integrated with more “traditional” treatment methods, yoga therapy
can be incredibly helpful in encouraging eating disorders patients to reconnect with their thoughts, emotions and physical feelings, which often become disconnected when they engage in disordered eating behaviors as a means to manage their anxiety and not “feel” their feelings. Clinicians employ the use of “therapeutic yoga” to help eating disorders patients – who generally have distorted body images and unrealistic self-concepts – foster an increased ability to separate thoughts from actions, develop greater self-compassion and maintain healthier relationships with their bodies. These skills are crucial to maintaining lasting eating disorders recovery
“There are many ways that therapeutic yoga benefits individuals struggling with eating disorders,” explains Jocelyn Jenkins, MA, LPC, yoga instructor and primary clinician at Eating Recovery Center. “The most recognizable benefit I see is that patients are able to use movement as a form of self-care and self-exploration, rather than for eating disordered behaviors.”
During a therapeutic yoga group, patients are offered a safe, instructor-guided environment in which to explore the emotions and feelings that arise during different yoga postures. As patients move through a series of yoga postures while focusing on their breath, they move slowly and intentionally, and are encouraged to allow all thoughts to arise. These skills are practiced again and again over time and patients learn to use yoga therapy as a coping skill for dealing with painful thoughts and sensations, rather than as an eating disordered behavior
“Therapeutic yoga and eating disorders treatment can benefit all patients, across all levels of care,” said Jenkins. “However, it’s important that patients are screened for osteoporosis and osteopenia before starting any sort of therapeutic movement regimen. With either of these diagnoses, there are postures and movements that should be avoided, but yoga therapy can still be used.”
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