In a 2009 article from Eating Disorders, Laura Douglass cites that although there is no concrete evidence that prescribing yoga practices to patients with eating disorders will alleviate symptoms, there is evidence that various forms of yoga decrease symptoms associated with psychological disorders such as OCD, anxiety and depression which often occur alongside eating disorders (Douglass 2009). According to Patrick Bergstrom, founder of I Chose to Live and recovered anorexic, “Food and being thin are really just symptoms of the real issue of an eating disorder…It can be a result of how you grew up, whether there was any trauma in your life, where your self-esteem is…Eating disorders are extremely complex.” The circumstances responsible for catalyzing an eating disorder are wide-ranging and vary from individual to individual and the effects of an eating disorder are detrimental to both physical and mental health. Yoga practices have been shown to yield benefits to the individual’s mind, body and spirit which could be why many therapists and residential treatment centers have adopted yoga as a tool in improving body image and aiding in the recovery process. However, yoga practice should in no way be used as a replacement for other forms of treatment. According to Douglass, “…yoga’s success is heavily reliant on the nutrition [patients] are receiving and it is greatly bolstered by psychiatric medication, medical support and family, group and individual therapy” (Douglass 2009). In short, discussion with the patient’s treatment team is crucial before choosing a yoga practice.
For eating disorder patients that are medically stable to explore the benefits of yoga practice, Charm City Yoga in Baltimore, Maryland offers affordable classes which include a variety of different styles to cater to one’s preference and needs. CCY studios can be found in five different locations in Baltimore which include Federal Hill, Fells Point, Midtown and Towson. A studio in Severna Park will be opening in July. Currently, CCY is offering free yoga sessions every Saturday from 9am-10am at the Inner Harbor until the beginning of August (it will possibly run until the end of August, check CCY’s website and/or call for details and updates). Yoga instructor Jessica Rodgers leads the classes at the Inner Harbor as well as an intermediate hot vinyasa class on Friday nights at 6:30pm at CCY’s midtown studio. She also will be teaching two classes in the Severna Park studio on Monday nights when it opens. I spoke to Rodgers about her personal gains from practicing yoga. “Studying yoga has been an amazing and life-changing journey for me,” she says. “In yoga classes the teachers are always talking about connecting to your mind and your body, and becoming present with the thoughts, feelings, and sensations that are continually flowing through. Through yoga I’ve had many personal breakthroughs in relationships not only with myself and my body, but also those in work and social settings. Yoga is truly just one big survey of who you are—right here, right now and in this present moment.” In the case of eating disorders, Rodgers has observed components of healing emerge in her students. “Many people come to yoga for a workout, but after practicing for a while they start to question their motivations. In the case of eating disorders, they become aware of the damage they are doing to their bodies. Many may also find self love in the yoga practice and with that new perspective on life, [they] can face challenges and stress more easily.”
Kim Manfredi, co-owner of Charm City Yoga, shares her insights about the physical and mental benefits of yoga here.
Eating disorder resources in Maryland
The Eating Disorder Network of Maryland offers a variety of resources for professionals and sufferers. Individuals suffering from an eating disorder can locate help in Maryland as well as DC and online here. Pershing Turner Centers (with a location in Annapolis, Maryland) also offer a variety of helpful resources. In Baltimore, both the Johns Hopkins Eating Disorders Program and the Center for Eating Disorders at Sheppard Pratt are reputable in their treatment of eating disorders.
Douglass, Laura. “Yoga as an Intervention in the Treatment of Eating Disorders: Does it Help?” Eating Disorders, 2009: 126-139.