Tag: yoga

Yoga and Eating Disorders

Yoga and Eating Disorders

Laura Mifflin dance instructor & choreographer


by: Laura Mifflin, Dance Instructor and Choreographer



I believe that practicing yoga can be a form of positive treatment for individuals suffering from eating disorders.

This paper takes a look at the problem of eating disorders, and makes an investigation into whether or not yoga can be used as a suitable treatment to add some positive outcome or added benefits to those suffering from eating disorders.  With millions of individuals suffering from such disorders, there are several practices and treatments being explored currently which can potentially help them.  One new outlook on treatment is through the practicing of yoga.  Specifically, the practice of asanas, integration of the body and mind, elevated spirit, relaxation, lessened focus on body image or appearance, and more.  The findings reveal that yoga practices do have beneficial impacts on suffering individuals, however, it cannot be stated that yoga is a complete cure-all.  The complexity of eating disorders in general, even when combined with yoga practices, will not provide us with a complete solution to this unfortunate condition.

When I look at myself in the mirror, I see a healthy eighteen-year-old girl who is in shape, and who has confidence in herself.  I am happy with my body image and I can proudly say that I am comfortable in my own skin.  I believe in myself and I rarely find myself struggling with self-esteem issues.  Personally, I do things in life that please me; I dance, because it enables me to lose myself, and find myself at the same time; I wear over-sized, baggy, cozy clothing because it is comfortable; I run because it is where I can find bliss; I don’t put effort into my hair and makeup because I am not phased by how I look; I eat food because it is a necessity, and because it is tasty; I care for others, because whenever I can help someone, it cheers me up.  As well, yoga is an activity I have involved myself with at times, for the added benefits of relaxation and flexibility.  To me, yoga is just a healthy practice that I do for enjoyment and it is a learning opportunity to get involved in.

As I go on living my life in this way, I am almost blindsided by the fact that there are individuals out there who are struggling from eating disorders.  What about those people who look at themselves in the mirror and don’t approve of how they look?  What happens to them?  Sadly, in most cases, these individuals end up suffering from an eating disorder, such as anorexia, impulsive eating, or bulimia nervosa.  These disorders are serious issues, and cannot be overlooked.  If you do not personally know an individual suffering from an eating disorder, don’t think that there aren’t individuals suffering from the over-evaluation of their physical form, because there are.  In fact, more than five million Americans; the majority being female, are currently suffering from mental disturbances like eating disorders and body image.  This type of behavior not only has negative physical effects, but also adverse emotional and mental effects on an individual.

In most cases, when an individual is suffering from an eating disorder, especially if they are suffering from a disorder such as anorexia or bulimia nervosa, side effects can include weight loss, pale skin, low energy, fragile nails, thin hair, and several other characteristics which are visibly noticeable.  However, the nature of eating disorders are such that their side effects are not always fully visible.  There are things which we can not always see on the exterior, and there are many more issues which are not visible to the naked eye.  A study done by Laura Douglas even stated, “Virtually every bodily function and organ is afflicted by the disorder”.  This statement proves just how serious and lethal these types of disorders can be.  The effects of abnormal eating that occur on those with disordered eating are negative.  There are so many aspects of the individual that are affected in such a destructive manner.

Which trait really defines someone suffering from an eating disorder?  The answer is sadness.  Sadness is the most dominant trait associated with a suffering individual, but it can also manifest itself in such manners as depression, self-mutilation, and even suicide.  Preventative programs, techniques, and therapies are all ideas that are being implemented and studied in relation to these serious issues.  As a matter of fact, there are studies being performed currently which explore how yoga and spirituality relate to factors that influence those who have eating disorders and body dissatisfaction.  Is it possible that simply engaging individuals in an activity such as yoga can help to improve the mindset of those with eating disorders?

I believe that the use of yoga practices can a form of positive treatment for individuals suffering from eating disorders.  If you are a struggling with these kinds of disorders, you are an individual who is suffering with issues between the body and the mind.  What can be the most difficult issue with these disorders is that one may not actually comprehend or believe that they are a victim to a disorder.  One may constantly be under the impression that they are not at a healthy weight, or they are striving for an ideal image, which is truly unattainable.  However, whether an individual is aware and accepting of their disorder or not, there is still a main concept behind how they all feel.  The commonality that I find with eating disorders is the dissatisfaction that an individual faces with him or herself.  It can be said that the body of an eating disorder sufferer is viewed like an ornament.  This ornament involves the suffering from a disconnection from the body, appetites, feelings, and inner experiences.  This is where I find yoga can come into play.  The outcome of yoga was designed to achieve a link between the well being and inner peace of a person, with their overall physical and mental health.  Health and wellness is quite a broad topic is not a simple thing to fully understand or control, and it must be a difficult task to positively change your ways, if they are already quite negative.  However, we cannot give up on the idea that there are philosophies and perspectives that we can take and try to influence positive changes.

There is a perspective offered by a yogic philosophy that joins the dualistic split between mind and body or a spiritual crisis, and it provides methodology for the unification of the body, spirit, and mind.  I find that if there is balance between these three aspects of an individual, there is a sense of well being and balance.  It is once one of these aspects is thrown off, that issues tend to arise, such as an eating disorder or other troublesome issues.  To ensure that all aspects of self are always working properly with one another, there are asanas that can be used in this yoga practice.  These asanas include physical postures, where inward focus done by the individual enables him or herself to experience their true self or soul.  Through finding your true self or soul, an individual would be going through a self-discovery process.  This process would involve a lot of attention being given to self-observation.  The hopes of this self-observation and looking inwardly in such a peaceful way is that an individual would be able to really view what it is that gives them the dissatisfaction they hold for themselves and let go of that negativity.  The factors that can be found in a healthy yoga regimen include positive body awareness, body responsiveness, intuitive eating, and overall body satisfaction.

In fact, there was a group study performed in 2006 that set out to see if there were any correlations between body mass index, drive for thinness, and body dissatisfaction as well as taking into consideration media influences.  After examination, tests, and constant practice of yoga, the findings were noted that there is a positive correlation between body mass index and drive for thinness and body dissatisfaction, and the results also stated that the yoga preventative program was overall quite efficacious.  I believe that the success of this program is due to the fact that yoga is not a program focusing on how one looks, but rather on how one feels.  It is a treatment of the spirit, as well as the body.  When practicing yoga, you will notice that your body is able to feel sensations never once thought of as possible, and you will discover that you are able to put yourself in a place and in positions that may once have been impossible for you.  Relaxing and breathing into poses and postures personally allows me to enjoy the placement and test my limits.  Pushing the body to a safe but challenging position gives us some satisfaction.  I believe that eating disorder sufferers who involve themselves in yoga, beginning at a moderate pace, would be able to let go of the dissatisfaction they also tie to their bodies, and actually allow for more self-approval.  If satisfaction can be given to an individual, they may also be able to lose that drive for unnecessary thinness, and focus on accepting their body.

As we keep discovering different aspects of yoga as it relates to eating disorders, we see how the idea of improving the wellness of those suffering from an eating disorder is not simple, and the improvement process is no easy task.  Yoga is not a practice that is set in stone, since it is always changing, and there are multiple views on techniques and philosophies that should be used.  As mentioned earlier, there is a yogic practice involving asanas that may be used, and another idea that can be used it that yoga has the potential to provide an individual with relaxation.

According to the study done by Boudette in 2006, yoga contributes to the recovery process of individuals suffering from eating disorders because yoga is able to introduce relaxation to their consciousness, which is often a newly found sensation in this circumstance.  Boudette reports that, “the combination of yoga postures (asanas), followed by relaxation (savasana) creates a deep sense of peace and freedom they have never before experienced.  The hope of this relaxing feeling is that it will be a new sensation that the body will be involved with, and hopefully enjoy.  The relaxation will try to let the body of the eating disorder sufferer reach a new level of enjoyment with respect to how it feels.  With the focus being on the feeling of the body, attention has now been redirected away from how the body looks, which tends to be the primarily and perhaps the only focus of the eating disorder sufferer.  Once that focus is shifted away from how one thinks about their physical appearance, the individual suffering from the eating disorder will have some relief.  The pressure to look a certain way, which has been impressed upon them from our culture’s media, or where ever it came from, and the stress of modeling him or herself into this body type will hopefully then be reduced.  I feel that this relief would show the overworked mind of the sufferer some much needed peace.  With the mind at rest, and the body under less stress, the two should be able to find a better connection and become more stable, if a positive routine is established and reinforced.

One concern that should be mentioned in regards to using yoga as a suitable treatment for eating disorders is that some consider yoga to be a form of exercise.  The issue here with yoga being a form of exercise is that individuals suffering from eating disorders have risks associated with combining exercise and abnormal eating.  It is reported that: “Vigorous exercise can be a means of weight loss or one of several tactics used by the individual to counteract the ingestion of excess calories or deal with body image concerns.  […] terror of being fat can cause some individuals to fall into the trap of excessively exercising while still falling short of the “perfect body”.  Falling into the trap of too much exercise is risky.  If yoga practice were to become the treatment for the patient, I would suggest an easy, controlled yoga class, with constant supervision by the yoga instructor.  This way, it can be ensured that an individual does not take this treatment too far, or cause bodily harm.”

The danger of disordered eating is so dominant to some individuals that any treatment needs to be used with caution.  Disordered eating is a habit which some develop, which cannot be easily escaped from.  Individuals suffering from disordered eating are constantly under a struggle and they are constantly running away from themselves and their happiness and satisfaction.  Once personally affected either directly or indirectly by eating disorders, you should understand that there is one source of recovery out there for this serious condition; that being yoga .  Sufferers of eating disorders have been known to say, “I felt like I was falling from the sky. […] After a period of being healthy, I felt sick again”, “Always talking about being sick, sick, sick”, are words that should not need to be expressed by anyone.  Disordered eating is a sickness, and we are in search of the cure, using various methods which we can only hope will be effective, and so we must continue to study these methods if we are to help those who are suffering. We can try, and believe, and practice yoga and preach its many benefits, and see how it positively benefits those individuals who are struggling from eating disorders.  As yoga as a practice continues to develop and be a source of inspiration and assistance to more people, we must make sure that it can also help the people who could really use its benefits the most.  If we can give body satisfaction and self-contentment to everyone, why wouldn’t we?  Let us all practice: living, laughing, loving ourselves, breathing, exercising, and healthy eating.


Sources Cited:

Boudette, R. (2006).  Question & answer: yoga in the treatment of disordered eating and body image disturbance.  How can the practice of yoga be helpful in recovery from eating disorders?  Eating disorders: the journal of treatment & prevention.  14.  167-170.

Dittmann, K., Freedman, M. (2009).  Body awareness, eating attitudes, and spiritual beliefs of women practicing yoga.  Eating disorders: the journal of treatment & prevention. 17.  273-292.

Douglass, L. (2009).  Yoga as an intervention in the treatment of eating disorders: does it help?  Eating disorders: the journal of treatment & prevention.  17.  126-139.

Giordano, S. (2010).  Exercise and eating disorder: an ethical and legal analysis.  Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge.

Ronon, T., Ayelet. (2001).  In and out of anorexia: the story of the client, the therapist, and the process of recovery.  United Kingdom: Jessica Kingsley Publishers Ltd.

Scime, M., Cook-Cottone, C., Kane, L., Watson, T. (2006).  Group prevention of eating disorders with fifth-grade females: impact on body dissatisfaction, drive for thinness, and media influence.  Eating disorders: the journal of treatment & prevention.  14.  143-155.

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Yoga In Mexico with Robert Fox

sunset in mexicoby Robert Fox, Tai Chi & Qi Gong Instructor




According to Wikipedia, “Yoga is a physical, mental, and spiritual practice or discipline that denotes a variety of schools, practices and goals in Hinduism, Buddhism (including Vajrayana and Tibetan Buddhism) and Jainism, the best-known being Hatha yoga and Raja yoga.”  It dates back to the 6th century BC.  It wasn’t until 1980 that yoga became an accepted form of exercise in the western world.  My wife and I live in Cambridge Ontario, and we have been life long YMCA members.  All kinds of fitness is an important part of our lives.  We became certified fitness instructors years ago, and today I still teach aerobics and weight resistant classes at the Cambridge Ontario YMCA.

yoga in mexico with robert fox

For the past 5 years, we have lived in Bucerias Mexico for February and March.  This year, I decided to offer a yoga class in the Ana Ruth’s hotel, where we live on the roof outdoors.  Bucerias is on the Pacific Ocean just a few miles north of Puerto Vallarta.  The environment here is perfect for yoga.  It seems like there is a yoga class being offer on every street corner.  Are these classes being taught by certified yoga instructors?  I doubt it.  Am I a certified yoga instructor?  No.  So I advertise my class as “Robert’s mobility class”.  Since I have had tons of experiences and courses in Tai Chi, Qi Gong, Creative Movement, Yoga, and since I am a qualified certified fitness instructor, I believe I can offer the participants some helpful exercises.  To make the classes even more appealing, they are free.

Back in Canada, I attend at least one yoga class per week and I have also researched yoga extensively on the internet.  When I am teaching my weight resistant class back home, I incorporate yoga moves into the hour, and those exercises are appreciated by all.  My wife and I have taken two separate courses from a certified Tai Chi instructor in Ontario.  We are pretty good at doing the 108 peaceful Chinese moves.  I have also been exposed to many Qi Gong classes, and at one time when you didn’t have to be certified in it, I taught it at the Chaplin Family YMCA in Cambridge.

yoga in mexico with robert fox

I retired from teaching with the Waterloo Region District School Board 15 years ago.  I taught for 33 years at the elementary level.  I have a specialist certificate in Drama Education, and have taught many courses in movement.  I still use those strategies in my weight resistant classes at the YMCA.

My Friday morning at 10 a.m. class here in Mexico consists of a little Tai Chi, a little Qi Gong, a little yoga, and a lot of Drama.  It lasts one hour and we always begin with a warmup and end with a cool down.  Of course we stretch a lot and hold poses too.  In drama class, back in the classroom, we use to call those poses, tableau.  The slow movements were called articulations.  Here is a list of what we did today, Friday 13th in Mexico …

  • warm up – a) brain gym  b) the Owl
  • The Golden 8 Energy Balancing Exercises
  • The Big 5 – lunge/squat/bridge/pushup/press
  • Tapping for stress reduction
  • Memory Hangers

Please contact me for more information at … theoldfoxx@rogers.com

Check out our daily blog of life here in Mexico at … buceriasmexico2015.blogspot.com


Robert Fox

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The Four Insights Book Review

the four insights

The Four Insights – Book Review by Jeff Kitmer

The Four Insights, Wisdom, Power, and Grace of the Earth Keepers is a book that cannot be truly appreciated by reading and thereby expecting to receive its gifts through the words.  The Four Insights must be experienced through the practice of its exercises in order to receive its gifts and insights.  Alberto takes you on a journey through the depths of your body, mind, and spirit accompanied by the archetypes of the Serpent (Body), Jaguar (Mind), and Condor (Spirit).
I found the book to be a very addictive read.  I was eager to push ahead and consume more of the information before fully immersing myself in his prescribed exercises.  I have returned to The Four Insights time and time again to practice the exercises.  Each time, I gain new “insights” into the stories that I have created about myself and my life.  The Four Insights is a place to find perspective, to become grounded, and to ignite your passion to discover the Healer within you.
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Breathing And Pregnancy

Denise Davis-Gains


by Denise Davis-Gains



Many years ago, during my first pregnancy, I remember being a little arrogant and
wondering what I would learn in a prenatal class at the hospital. This was before I
became a yoga teacher. During that first session the instructor talked about breathing
and exercise, she talked about a lot of things, but breathing seemed to me to be the most
unusual thing to discuss in a prenatal class. Wouldn’t I just breathe normally? Why
would I need to breath in any special way to get through labor and delivery? She talked
about different breathing techniques and I felt rather silly blowing air out of my pursed
lips and preceded to file this class under “LATER” OR “WHATEVER” as my 13 year
old daughter would now say.

That first labor was 24 hours long with 5 hours of pushing and eventually forceps
intervention to help get my very large child out of my apparently somewhat narrow
pelvis. I held my breath and did not have a coach to remind me to breathe and I am sure
now that this slowed down the process much more than was necessary. While I managed
to deliver vaginally, it was an experience that could have been eased by some gentle
coaching with breath and sound.

In the year after the birth of my first child I decided to become a yoga teacher and took
him with me to nurse as I worked through basic yoga teacher training. I learned about
holding the breath and how as I held my breath pain would increase and how when I
released the breath, I could release pain in my body.

Practicing simple breath awareness during pregnancy can help during the labor and
delivery process at the end of the pregnancy and it can also help to make sure that
mom and baby are getting optimal amounts of oxygen during the gestation period.

Remembering that there is a miracle happening in the body. Through the coming
together of a few cells a child is forming. To maximize the growth potential of that child
we want to get as much oxygen as possible as that is one of the foundational building
blocks of a human being.

The Importance Of Breathing And Pregnancy

During my second pregnancy, the midwife nurse exclaimed repeatedly that, “we should
be making a video of your breathing techniques.” I discovered how using breath
awareness alone could help with labor and delivery. It was amazing how just letting
the breath out during the contractions could allow the contraction and gravity to do its
job. I noticed if I held my breath that the contraction was not as productive. Experiment
with this concept by pinching your hand hard and firm, hold the breath, and notice what
happens. Do the same thing and let the breath out long and slow. Notice the difference.
Try it again and let out a long, deep guttural “ahhhh” sound and see how it feels. This is
the foundation of basic benefits of breath awareness and pregnancy.

Benefits of Breath work – Pranayama and Pregnancy

• Decrease in resting heart rate

• Decrease in blood pressure

• Decrease in respiratory rate

• Increased efficiency of cardiovascular & respiratory functions

• Normalized gastrointestinal & hormonal functions

• Increase in endurance and energy level

• Breathing exercises improve sleep and normalize weight

• Increased bodily awareness

• Improved mood and well-being

• Improved sense of self-acceptance

• Increased self-actualization

• Can reduce anxiety, depression and feelings of anger and hostility

• Increased attention span, concentration, memory and learning

The biochemical profile improves, indicating an anti-stress and antioxidant effect. Some changes include a decrease in blood glucose, triglyceride, cholesterol, and stress-
hormones.  These are some of the basic benefits of practicing yoga breathing during and after pregnancy.

Some exercises that might help to achieve these benefits include the complete yoga breath, watching the gap and alternate nostril breathing.

The complete yoga breath:

• Sit quietly

• Become aware of the natural rhythm of your breath

• Imagine inhaling from the bottom up, like filling up a pitcher of water.

• Inhale into the belly

• Feel the chest expand

• Fill up right up to the collar, the back of the throat and the nose

• Exhale from the top down

• Collar, chest, abdomen

• Allow the attention to follow the breath all the way in and all the way out.

• Notice if the attention wanders and without judgment or criticism bring the attention back to the breath when you are ready.

• Start with about 1-3 minutes and practice longer as your ability to pay attention increases to about 10-12 minutes

Watching the Gap:

• Repeat this same process as above

• When you have established a regular complete breath rhythm bring the attention to the space between the exhalation and the next arising inhalation

• Notice where the attention goes in that space

• Allow the gap to become wider & deeper without restraining the breath in any way

• Stay with this exercise for 1-3 minutes and build up to 10-12 minutes

We breathe predominantly through one nostril for 60-90 minutes and then the sinus
rhythm changes and we breath from the other nostril for 60-90 minutes, alternating
throughout the day. Take a minute and notice which nostril is dominant right now.
Many things can interfere with the sinus rhythm; allergies; environmental factors; colds;
viruses; pregnancy, and other conditions. One way to re-establish a regular rhythm is to
practice alternate nostril breathing.

Alternate Nostril Breathing:

• Start with the complete breath as above, establish a comfortable rhythm, about 1-2 minutes

• Prepare the right hand by folding the first two fingers into the palm of the hand

• Use the right thumb to open and close the right nostril (just gently lay it on the nose to close the nostril, no pressure necessary)

• Use the right ring finger to open and close the left nostril

• Inhale completely through both nostrils

• Exhale completely through both nostrils

• Close the right nostril

• Inhale through the left (short quick powerful inhalations)

• Close the left

• Exhale through the right (long slow drawn out exhalations)

• Inhale through the right

• Close the right and

• Exhale through the left

• Repeat for 3-10 minutes

It is a good idea to check with your primary health care provider before beginning any
new exercises or practices during pregnancy. It is a good idea to work with a teacher to
ensure that you are getting maximum benefit from these ancient practices.

Focusing on the act of breathing clears the mind of all daily distractions and clears our
energy enabling us to better connect with the Spirit within. ~Author Unknown

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Denise Davis-Gains, a yoga teacher since 1993 and trainer of teachers since 1997, lives
and works in Cambridge, Ontario, Canada with her three children. Denise has had the
privilege to assist in the birth story of many of her students. She trains yoga teachers
in the yoga of fertility & bringing children into to the world consciously. You can find
out more about her at www.atlasstudio.com and she can be contacted at 519.240.9642 or info@atlasstudio.com

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Director: Denise Davis-Gains
Phone: +1 519-240-9642
Email: info@atlasstudio.com