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Yoga Poses to Relieve Eating Disorders

Dhanashree Patane
Eating disorders affect more than 10 million men and women in America. With rising health concerns, there is also the risk of developing psychological harm. It is found that yoga can help restore the balance of the mind and body that is affected due to eating disorders.
According to a study published in 'Complementary Therapies in Medicine', regular practice of yoga helped in reducing eating disorders, like that of binge-eating.
Yoga has abundant benefits for the body and mind. For many years, studies have proved the benefits of yoga for many physical and mental ailments. Eating disorders, which is a common condition affecting people, both physically and mentally, can be relieved with the regular practice of yoga.
We can call eating disorders to be a certain set of conditions, where the individual has unhealthy eating habits. These include, eating too much or too little; basically eating in all the wrong amounts and ways.
Eating disorders are of 3 different types: mainly, Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa, and Compulsive Overeating or Binge-eating. Here is a little more about these terms, followed by the different yoga poses that can combat eating disorders.

Types of Eating Disorders

Anorexia nervosa can be described as being more of a psychological condition, where a person has morbid fears of being fat or putting on calories, even though he/she may be lean. The individual has an obsession with being thin. Such people eat very little, and exercise more to stay slim. They often suffer from low self-esteem and depression.
Bulimia nervosa is a condition which can be a combination of anorexia and compulsive overeating. People with this condition eat excessive amounts of food, even if their stomach is full. They compensate for overeating by extreme exercise, self-induced vomiting, excessive use of diet pills and laxatives, etc. This leads to many physical and psychological disorders.
Binge-eating or compulsive overeating is characterized by eating large quantities of food. However, these people do not compensate for the same with exercise or purging due to guilt. They run the risk of obesity-related disorders. They are often ashamed of their eating habits, and may have psychological issues like depression, social withdrawal, and body image issues.

How Yoga Helps Eating Disorders

The causes of eating disorders can be many, like genetics, cultural and social influences, stress, and childhood trauma. While medical science has effective options for treating this issue, yoga is an excellent way to tackle it too, not only at the physical level, but at a much deeper and spiritual level too.
Eating disorders can be combated with a calm and balanced mind and body.

Eating disorders are fueled by emotional disturbances and stress; basically mental factors. Many poses in yoga provide deep relaxation and balance of the body, spirit, and mind. With this achieved, there is more possibility of combating eating disorders.
Yoga builds self-esteem, and gives a positive feeling about the body and its appearance. There is no self-judgment; hence, the body and mind work mutually to eradicate any negativity.

Yoga Poses That Help Relieve Eating Disorders

Yoga recognizes eating disorders as the result of imbalance in the first chakra (energy center) of the yogic energy system. So, practicing poses that target this chakra is beneficial to relieve eating disorders. The first chakra, also known as the root chakra, can be targeted by practicing poses that focus on the base of the spine.
This chakra makes us feel grounded, and helps us reestablish a connection with the earth and energy in us. It connects us to the structural strength of the body. The different parts of our body, like the legs, feet, bones, and muscles, are connected to the energy in the first chakra. The following poses are helpful to activate the root chakra:

Lotus Pose

This is perhaps the best pose for centering the mind and rooting the first chakra to the earth.
It has multiple benefits; it helps improve the digestive system, reduces blood pressure, and helps in relaxing the body and mind. It also tones the sacral and coccygeal nerves.

Squat Pose

For improved concentration, balance, and coordination, the squat pose is an excellent option.
This pose works on strengthening the lower back muscles. It helps ease any tension accumulated in the lower back region.

Goddess Pose

The goddess pose aids deep relaxation of the body.
It helps open the chest and ribcage, which enhances the intake of oxygen and overall breathing. This pose is excellent to uplift one's senses.

Tree Pose

Practicing the tree pose is excellent to strengthen the lower body.
It helps achieve focus and balance. The tree pose is beneficial for people with low self-esteem and confidence.

Mountain Pose

This pose can also be termed as the preparatory or resting yoga pose.
It is a strengthening pose that works on the thighs, ankles, and knees. It tones the muscles around the abdomen.

Crab Pose

The crab pose is excellent at building core body strength.
By opening the chest and toning the muscles in the lower back, it stimulates the endocrine and respiratory systems. This pose also helps build the flexibility of the arms, legs, and spine.

Pigeon Pose

The pigeon pose in yoga helps in strengthening the thigh muscles and buttocks.
It provides a deep stretch to the back and outer thighs. There are many variations too, like forward-bending, seated, and reclining pigeon, which are very beneficial.

Warrior 1 and 2

The warrior poses, both 1 and 2, are extremely beneficial for building self-esteem, concentration, and confidence. These are powerful grounding poses with many benefits. They help improve the digestive system and capacity of the lungs, thus improving respiration.

Warrior 1

Warrior 2

Locust Pose

This pose helps strengthen the muscles in the abdomen, and builds strength in the spine. It also gives a good stretch to the lower back. The locust pose is an energizing posture in yoga.

Child Pose

This pose opens the sacral area and helps in achieving a good balance in the body. It helps one feel rejuvenated, relaxed, and also increases focus.

Bridge Pose

The bridge pose is excellent for promoting relaxation and in reducing stress. It helps build strength in the abdominal muscles and thighs. It is an excellent pose to combat depression.

Bound Angle or Butterfly Pose

This pose is an energizing pose which stimulates the sacrum. It helps alleviate anxiety, mood swings, and depression. It is relaxing and lends a happy feeling to the mind.

Staff Pose

This pose is also called the father of all seated poses.
It is excellent for improving complete body posture and relaxing the entire body. It helps in creating awareness of the body by calming the brain cells.
It is important to understand if one has an eating disorder, accept it. Most people first go into a state of denial. They face a strong rejection from their mind and body. Yoga can help deal with balancing the body and mind. It can help with the stability required to create the desire to overcome an eating disorder.
Disclaimer: This article is for informative purposes only. Consult your physician, and practice yoga under the guidance of a professional instructor.