Healing the Mind-Body Connection: Yoga and Mindfulness in Eating Disorder Recovery


The intricate intertwining of the mind and body forms the foundation of human well-being. The journey of healing and recovery from eating disorders is a...

The intricate intertwining of the mind and body forms the foundation of human well-being. The journey of healing and recovery from eating disorders is a testament to this fundamental connection. Traditional treatment approaches emphasise psychological counselling, nutritional rehabilitation, and medication when necessary. However, as our understanding of eating disorders deepens, the utility of incorporating complementary therapeutic approaches such as yoga and mindfulness into a holistic recovery plan becomes increasingly apparent.


Understanding Eating Disorders

Eating disorders, including anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge eating disorder, are mental health conditions characterised by unhealthy eating behaviours and distorted thoughts and emotions about food, weight, and body image. They are often accompanied by comorbid conditions such as depression, anxiety, and substance use disorders. A therapeutic approach addressing both physical and mental health aspects is crucial in the recovery process.


Yoga and Mindfulness: Pillars of Integrative Healing

Yoga and mindfulness, two ancients practices rooted in Eastern traditions, are being increasingly recognised for their therapeutic potential. They are based on the principles of self-awareness, self-compassion, and non-judgment, which are critical in fostering mental resilience and re-establishing a healthy relationship with one’s body.


Yoga for Body Acceptance

Yoga encourages an internal focus of control, promoting acceptance of one’s physical state. The practice goes beyond the physical postures or asanas; it instils the idea of union, aligning mind, body, and spirit. Yoga can provide individuals recovering from eating disorders with the tools to recognise their body’s needs, capabilities, and limitations. By emphasising the process over the outcome, yoga fosters self-compassion, reducing the rigidity and perfectionism often associated with eating disorders.


Mindfulness for Regulating Emotions

Mindfulness is the practice of non-judgmental attention to the present moment, helping to interrupt the habitual patterns of thoughts and behaviours. Mindfulness-based approaches, like Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) and Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), have shown promising results in eating disorder treatment. Mindfulness helps individuals distinguish between physical hunger and emotional hunger, decreasing impulsive or emotional eating behaviours. It allows for the recognition and acceptance of negative emotions, thereby reducing the need to suppress or control these feelings through disordered eating behaviours.


Incorporating Yoga and Mindfulness into Eating Disorder Treatment

Therapists can integrate yoga and mindfulness into a comprehensive treatment plan in a variety of ways. It could be as simple as introducing a few minutes of mindful breathing or stretching at the beginning or end of a therapy session. Or, it may involve structured yoga therapy sessions, mindfulness-based group therapy, or teaching patients to engage in these practices at home.


If you would like to enquire about mental health care at Cardinal Clinic, you can call us on 01753 869755. Alternatively, if you wish to refer yourself for mental health care, you can complete our self referral form.

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*McManus, S., Meltzer, H., Brugha, T. S., Bebbington, P. E., & Jenkins, R. (2009). Adult psychiatric morbidity in England, 2007: results of a household survey.

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