Yoga as a Modality for Healing Disordered Eating
– or, learning to trust your body again
Yoga at its core, for me at least, is all about connection. Connecting to your breath. Connecting to yourself. Re-connecting to your body. And connection to your highest sense of self.
I know how unfathomable the concept of connection can be, especially when you’re caught in the diet trap, or in the throes of disordered eating. Diet culture teaches us that we must change our appearance or our size to feel better. That we can’t trust our bodies or our intuition. It tells us that we aren’t good enough as we are.
I call bullsh*t.
Why does the number on the scales get to dictate our worth? Why, as women, do we get told we need to be smaller? I want to take up as much space as I please, thanks very much. And I want to feel good doing it.
Yoga as a practice of mindfulness and self acceptance
Reconnecting to our bodies can be really terrifying at first. I get it. We’ve been told our whole lives to look a certain way, which is unattainable for pretty much everyone! Society has conditioned us all to believe our bodies can’t be trusted. That left to its devices we would eat nothing but chocolate, cake – and be covered in Dorito dust. That is a myth I have dispelled many times (check out my previous posts on Intuitive Eating such as here, here, and here – and plenty more if you go digging!).
Yoga, on the other hands, teaches us that we are enough as we are. That we must meet ourselves and accept ourselves exactly as we are in any moment. Yoga reconnects us back to our bodies, and teaches us that our bodies are good enough as they are, which is why I integrate it in with so many of my health coaching sessions.
It can take time, patience and compassion, but yoga will help to heal your unhealthy relationship with food and with your body.
How To Use Yoga to Improve Your Sense of Self
Yoga feels SO good when you slow your movements right down. Enjoy every breath, and every transition, and act as though you are moving through treacle. Pay attention to every detail of your breath, and how each pose feels for your body.
Ask yourself: Where do you experience sensation? What does that sensation feel like for you? How does holding a pose change your breath? How does your breath change when you transition from one pose to another? Can you deepen your inhale? Lengthen your exhale?
Know that yoga will help you feel better in your body, though building up a better relationship and sense of trust with your physicality. This process probably won’t work if you are constantly criticising yourself and telling yourself you look *** or feel ***, or that the pose is too *** (insert any words of choice in there).
Know that the greatest gift you can give yourself is presence, and that yoga is a movement practice based on being present. So celebrate your body and its abilities, and be patient when you struggle. Know that taking rest is so powerful and healing, unlike than forcing yourself into another pose when you need to slow down.
Trust in your intuition
If a pose doesn’t feel good, you don’t have to force it. If you feel pain, that’s your body telling you that that movement is not right for you right now. Your intuition and inner wisdom can speak to you in more subtle ways than that though. Sometimes it is easier to notice the negative than the positive.
So: Feel the warmth of your body as you progress through the poses. Feel the depth of your breath. Feel the strength in your muscles. Notice the postures feel good, as well the ones that feel challenging. Notice what happens when you focus more on the breath. Does your mind quieten? Does your body feel more empowered?
Find Strength through showing up
Just showing up can be enough! As all of my clients will testify, I always say: “taking 5 deep breaths is so much better than avoiding your mat (and feeling guilty the rest of the day)”. Trust that the practice will unfold in time. Know that you are tapping into your inner strength by taking those 5 full breaths, or 10 rounds of cat/cow movement, or anything else that you are able to do.
Also notice the subtleties of your body. How you feel stronger when you have slept well. How your strength ebbs and flows with each day. Notice what times you feel at your best, and when you need to be more gentle with yourself. Pay attention to how your strength develops in poses like High Plank, and how holding this pose can even get easier with time. Observe how when you trust that you can do something, it’s always easier to achieve it than when you don’t believe in yourself.
It’s ok to ask for support
If you are struggling with an eating disorder, or worry that you are, I would always recommend seeking the help of a mental health professional and getting a team of supportive mentors around you first.
I offer health coaching around the topics of intuitive eating, body image and self-trust. These are topics that I am so passionate about, and challenges that I really support my clients through. Find out more about my 1:1 health coaching, or my group coaching program (UNITE: Live) launching next week. Both of these coaching options will incorporate yoga with coaching, and both will help you heal your relationship with food and your body.
Let me know if you have any questions or need any support at all. I’m here for you.