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Study: Yoga Kicks Eating Disorders, Body Obsession in Teens

in YD News, Yoga Heroes

empty-plateThese days you don’t have to dig too deep to find news about how yoga has positively benefited yet another group of individuals, whether they be high school jocks, yuppies, troops in Iraq, cancer survivors, or addiction recoverees. We’ve been a bit snippy snap with the news crew over at TIME mag, (they had it coming!) but for once we can feel so much better about appreciating the mass media coverage. Well TIME have redeemed themselves with this great article highlighting a recent study that found yoga to be a bonafide weapon in the battle against eating disorders.

The study, published in the Journal of Adolescent Health, included 50 adolescents aged 11-16, mostly girls, whom were “seriously ill”  – almost half had been previously hospitalized as a result of ED. Of the 50, 55% were suffering from anorexia, 17% from bulimia and the remaining 28% a mix of the two and other variations.

Led by T. Rain Carei Ph.D. of  Seattle Children’s Hospital, the study broke the group into usual clinic treatment and usual clinic treatment plus two hours of Viniyoga a week for eight weeks. At the close both groups improved in behavior and attitude, but the yoga bunch continued to show improvement even after the 8 weeks were up.

The researchers suspect that yoga may help by reducing the obsessive concern about weight associated with eating disorders.

“Food preoccupation may be reduced by focusing attention on yoga poses.”  Some subjects even expressed this idea directly to the researchers, saying “This is the only hour in my week when I don’t think about my weight.”

Body image obsession is, and has been, a major public issue especially amongst young girls.  With advertising, pop stars and celebriyogis everywhere it’s virtually unavoidable! Even in the supposedly ego-less sanctuary of yoga we can’t help feeling self-conscious about our looks – some styles of yoga even promote mirrors in class (yes also good for alignment, yadda etc.), and we’ve all seen the sleek covers of Yoga Journal. How can we not compare and respond to our “inadequacies”? The first few comments on the TIME article criticize that the study missed the point in that they focus on yoga as a “distraction”. We beg to differ. This study shows the awesome effectiveness of yoga to calm the fluctuations of the mind, as it were, and allow us to be comfortable in our own skin. Can you call that a distraction? Maybe…a distraction from distraction?

Anyway, this is super fantastic! And underlines all the work great organizations like our friends at Sprout Yoga have been doing to improve the lives of those affected by eating disorders (there are way more people than you may realize).  In short, yoga helps you feel good about your body, inside and out, and these special studies are finally coming around to that. Thanks science!

TIME you get a yogadork gold star. (today)


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16 comments… add one
  • Thanks again for keeping us all informed about what’s going on out there. It’s really very helpful to me because I’m so absorbed in my Yoga and tennis and guitar and family that I would never know a lot of this stuff except that you bring it to us in such an effective and entertaining way.

    Bob Weisenberg

  • I teach yoga to jr. college students. after taking yoga for a few semesters, at the end of her last semester a female student told me that she is a recovering anorexic, that her parents had put her in the hospital because they thought she was going to die at one point. she told me that her parents told her to thank me for putting her on the right path via yoga.

    I don’t need any research to know how much yoga helps girls with eating disorders because I teach to them, and have, for 6 years now.

  • What Bob said!

  • Thanks for highlighting this and for spotlighting Sprout Yoga – they do good work – watch for a ping back

  • Kell

    As one who suffered a self destructive relationship with my body (bulimia)and food, I 100% agree with this. Yoga evened out my body & my mind, after 12 years of practice, the two are almost in sync…. was the BEST thing I ever started, without really even thinking of what it may help me with, I went in for the physical aspect. Now as I progress, I am at apoint with my practice of letting go, so my practice is now about a softer gentler, kinder yoga and letting go even further… it’s a powerful journey…

  • Yes! I sited this article while doing research in graduate school on the benefits of using yoga for children and adolescents in mental health care. I’m so glad to see it become more easily accessible to the general public . As an aspiring psychotherapist with strong interest in the use of alternative methods to accompany therapy–YOGA is high on the list for any one of my clients, but especially those with body issues as such occurs with eating disorders, trauma, PTSD, etc.

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