When I was in the middle of my recovery from a long-term eating disorder I stumbled into a yoga class at my local gym. Sadly I don’t know the teacher’s name, but she changed the course of my life – introducing me not only to yoga, but to the incredible experience of feeling comfortable in my body. She very gently praised, supported and guided me to what I now recognise as “embodiment”, or the idea of truly inhabiting my body. Not criticising, hating, starving or harming it, but true ease and comfort after years of discomfort.
I had never been good at any exercise, but here I was in my curvy body, moving, stretching and breathing and finally transforming my relationship to my body. Yoga stayed with me as a personal practice and something I recommended to my counselling clients until I made the decision 15 years later that – even though my body didn’t fit the traditional yoga teacher frame – I would take the leap to teacher training and bring “Body Positive Yoga” to life to support others in their journeys to fully recover and improve their body image.
“Yoga can assist people in the recovery from eating disorders in a number of ways, including changing the relationship we have with our bodies and offering practical strategies we can use to help us learn to inhabit our bodies differently,” says psychologist and yoga teacher Janet Lowndes, who specialises in eating disorders and body image.
Yoga teacher Nadine Fawell agrees: “I struggled with anorexia and binge eating and yoga helped me to feel strong. Feeling physically strong has been key in feeling less anxious and being less inclined to medicate with food”
The clinical research into the benefits of yoga on eating disorders and body image is a growing area of research, with studies now pointing to the efficacy of using yoga as part of treatment. It helps, says Janet, because people “develop a way of listening to the body rather than fighting against it and build resilience by developing strategies of emotional coping”.