Disordered, compulsive, or emotional eating and exercising are often a result of “hungers of the heart or spirit”. We may crave connection, ease, creativity, and safety, which we confuse with physical hunger or obsession to control our eating and exercising behaviors. These behaviors are a means of coping and self-soothing, often to our detriment. Yoga provides a look inside oneself to understanding. Within ourselves are the answers to what we truly crave, desire and need to come back into balance.
Yoga practice, especially working in meditation, are being increasingly used to help people to overcome disordered eating patterns along with the stress and anxiety that result from these behaviors. Through illuminating the nature of addiction, yoga practice allows you to become self-compassionate, deliberate, and hopeful. It alleviates the isolation experienced that comes with suffering from disordered eating and body image issues. It allows you to express different strategies for dealing with anxiety and stress by giving clear guidelines in how to deal with negative or demanding situations.
It gives us the space to explore these compulsive behaviors through a spirit of community, transparency, and kindness. If we approach yoga as a meditative and spiritual practice rather than a means of exercise we find through the breath and poses our inner strength and purpose. Yoga can satisfy “hunger” without compulsive restriction or bingeing on food through opening your awareness to what you are actually craving emotionally. By tuning into your body and what she needs, focuses your actions on what will bring you peace.
The practice of yoga helps those of us who are recovering from disordered eating patterns to examine these cycles of compulsion and food, or body-centered anxiety or confusion. I found through my own practice that I was finally able to step outside myself and observe my behaviors without judgment. Allow my body to continue to act on them initially, but take in the scene. Why was I doing this? When was it happening? Where was I? What were my triggers? Eventually, I learned to change the behavior; slightly and gently at first, leading to a more profound shift in my relation to both mind and body. Dismissing the shame of “messing up” if I fell into an old pattern, but rather play the “observer” again and approach in understanding.
All styles of yoga are beneficial to attain a better sense of mindfulness and calm. However, for recovering and anxiety purposes supportive yoga, sitting in meditation and pranayama (focusing mainly on the breath) are superbly beneficial. These practices allow you to develop better sense of self and reaction to stress. There is not as much focus on the physicality and exercise of a yogic practice; which can be triggering
Slowing down during a time of anxiety or undesired habits and applying mindfulness and breath as a means to cope provides a profound shift in the mental outcome when faced with a stressful or anxiety provoking situation. When your mind is calm, the body can be calm, and ultimately the reaction can be attained from a higher sense of self and better judgment.