Image: @dominikwycisloI have a unique role in the field of eating disorder recovery, as I am a psychotherapist as well as a certified yoga teacher and certified yoga therapist. What all that means is that I am very aware of both the immense need and benefit that yoga can offer to the recovery process, as well as being very aware of the hindrances yoga can cause.
You may be wondering, “how can yoga not be helpful?“ Isn’t all yoga helpful? Well, yes and no. There are many forms of yoga out there today. One can find everything from gentle yoga to power yoga, to yoga with wine, to yoga for trauma. There are a myriad of yoga classes to choose from.
Why the type of yoga you do is important
When trying to recover from an eating disorder the most beneficial kind of yoga is one that has a focus on the internal practice of self-awareness, contemplation, and a sense of ease in your body. The class you choose should be rooted in body acceptance, awareness, and mindfulness. Any movement/poses taken should be carefully and safely instructed so that you can feel your body in each movement.
This is the teaching of embodiment and body awareness. When we move too fast we lose this awareness. Classes that support embodiment support connection to yourself without competition and comparison. You aren’t striving to get somewhere or to get into a specific pose.
If the yoga class you have chosen is focused on a “power and burn” you may need to reconsider what help it is really offering you.
When a yoga class is fast-paced and the emphasis is on mastering challenging poses this can easily become just another thing to perfect, compete in, and/or feel defeated in. This is not what you need when recovering from an eating disorder. In the true teaching of yoga, we attempt to move away from comparative thinking.
We move away from the kind of thinking that is often present in the mind of a person suffering with an eating disorder. The kind of thinking that brings you back to focusing on your surface body, rather than your inner body. There is no such thing as being “successful” at yoga. Rather, yoga is about being rather than doing. If your practice is not offering you the time and space to just be, then you may not be in the right yoga class for you, at this point in your life and your recovery.
Why I recommend restorative yoga
I teach the practice of restorative yoga to my clients.
Restorative yoga is truly about being rather than doing.
It is a form of yoga where the physical body is at complete rest and ease.
In this form of yoga no movement is taken, rather propping, such as bolsters and blankets, and blocks support your body. Postures are carefully chosen to place your body, nervous system, and mind at ease. This type of yoga is therapeutic on many levels.
I discovered it to be highly beneficial to those in recovery many years ago when I was teaching yoga at an eating disorder program and I witnessed how much my client’s bodies needed to rest. From the moment I offered these restful poses, I realized that what was needed in recovery was finding ways to rest, release, and restore the body back into balance, and for someone to really be able to feel this from the inside out. When we rest like this, we can begin to feel a sense of ease of being that has probably been missing for a very long time.
Why is this important in recovery?
1. Your body needs re-balancing
In an eating disorder your body becomes worn down and tired. It needs some help in restoring this balance.
2. Restorative yoga calms the nervous system
When struggling with an eating disorder, anxiety is often present. Restorative yoga promotes the parasympathetic response of your nervous system, which in turn lessens anxiety.
3. You need to feel some ease in your body
In an eating disorder the body often becomes the enemy. Restorative yoga allows you to feel what ease, comfort, and compassion feels like in your body.
4. You owe yourself a break
You need a break from all the pushing and striving. Give yourself the gift of just being by being still for a while.