When people embark on therapy for eating disorders, emphasis will obviously be place on cutting down the amount of exercise being done.
So you may well ask, as this is a site about recovering from eating disorders, why I have included a section on yoga.
For sure, when I first began my therapy, my therapist showed concern about the amount of exercise I was doing. She did, however, advocate that I kept up the yoga that I had recently begun, as she thought that it would help me to feel good about myself.
I have to admit that, in the beginning, when I first started to practice yoga, that I used it as an aid to losing weight and gaining that 'perfect body.'
Now, however, I employ it as part of my everyday routine to stay healthy and happy.
There's no doubt that exercise - when it's the right type, the right amount, and done for the right reasons, is beneficial for our overall health.
The important thing is where you're coming from - what you're trying to achieve.
Yoga, like anything, is a tool. You can use that tool for good or for bad.
I used to use it for bad - I hated myself, and any exercise I did was to punish myself in the name of controlling my body. That's what an eating disorder is - self-punishment.
Now I do yoga in the way it's meant to be done - to enhance my life, to help me to keep a balanced perspective on the other things going on in it.
As with all ancient practices, yoga has the power to do that - but only if you really want it to, and work with it, not against it.
Yoga is love-based - designed to enhance our mental, emotional, spiritual and physical well being, not to denigrate it.
In fact, so is all exercise, but in this modern day and age, far more money is made from telling us that we 'should' exercise in order to 'beautify' ourselves than it is from telling us that it's good just to enjoy what we're doing, and that, hey - we can actually feel better (I mean in a real sense) by doing so.
When yoga is done for the right reasons - for the reasons it was created, it is an incredibly therapeutic and beneficial form of 'exercise' to add to our lives.
So What is Yoga?
Yoga, in general, is a spiritual practice or discipline that helps the individual unify his/her body, mind, and heart.
Yoga is a direct experience of the vast interrelatedness of all life and of all things. Peace is gained at the end of a yoga session because there is a natural realignment of your body which leads to a natural realignment of your perception of life and of who you are.
Persistence at yoga helps us to find out who we are, to really connect with ourselves, and can even lead to real spiritual awakening.
Practice and perseverance with yoga leads us to change our breathing habits, lifestyles, habits, attitudes and our outlook. Material possessions become less and less important, and as they do so, our capacity for joy and inner freedom becomes greater.
A recent study published in Psychology of Women Quarterly, found that mind-body exercise, such as yoga, is associated with greater body satisfaction and fewer symptoms of eating disorders than traditional aerobic exercise such as jogging or using cardio machines.
Yoga practitioners reported less self-objectification, greater satisfaction with physical appearance, and fewer disordered eating attitudes compared to non-yoga practitioners.
It seems that yoga is a means through which some women have been able to protect themselves against messages which tell them that we have to be thin to be happy and successful.
With its emphasis on correct breathing, balance, strength, stamina, stillness, mindfulness and flexibility, the yogic system offers a seemingly unparalleled opportunity to heal negative body image.
The yogic system identifies eating disorders as a problem related to the first chakra.