How Can Yoga Help Eating Disorder Recovery?

Curious about how yoga can help you in your eating disorder recovery? Feeling scared to take the first step and start a yoga practice, but don’t know where to begin? It can be nerve-racking in San Diego to get out of your comfort zone and start something new—especially when it has to do with moving your body! I’ve interviewed Christin Conkle, LMFT, who is both an eating disorder therapist in San Diego, a yoga instructor, and a firm believer in how yoga can be a helpful part of eating disorder treatment. She explains how yoga can benefit people in eating disorder recovery, and she shares tips on how to begin a yoga practice.

How long have you been an eating disorder practitioner in San Diego?

I have been specializing in eating disorders treatment for six years at University of California San Diego Eating Disorders Center (UCSD EDC). 

How long have you been practicing yoga in San Diego? 

I have been practicing yoga for roughly six years, but I would say that I started to make yoga a part of my lifestyle the last four years. I became a yoga instructor two years ago. I currently have participated in a workshop associated with UCSD that integrated yoga and eating disorder benefits. I also teach yoga to the adolescents in our adolescent program at UCSD. 

Share a little bit about how yoga can be beneficial for eating disorder recovery.

Some of the symptoms associated with eating disorders are anxiety, depression, rumination, comparisons, and loss of self/self-worth. Yoga practice can help us in recognizing the source of tension and letting it go. Also, we all have experienced situations where our mind gets stuck in the vicious circle of thoughts (rumination). It makes us feel worried and exhausted. Stepping onto the yoga mat is a great way of stepping out of the thinking mode. Yoga will help in letting go of the worries.

How can yoga complement dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) in particular.

More and more medical professionals are putting emphasis on practice of yoga and meditation for promoting mental well-being. The claim that mindfulness skills are associated with improvement in mood is backed by science as well. Mindfulness is essential in DBT and one of the core elements. 

Yoga also can help in combatting depression, as it works on your tendency to ponder on specific thoughts, which are usually negative. Using mindfulness skills help in observing the shift in mood and learn the coping strategies. Learning to be in the moment, accept the space you currently are in, and practice bringing your thoughts back to the present. These skills can help lower anxiety and the tendency to ruminate on the negative and/or anticipate what’s to come. Our breathing has recuperative powers, and by controlling our breath we can successfully change the state of our mind. Pranayama basically slows and regularizes the breath. Yoga also teaches to love yourself the way you are and accept your body, your abilities, your limitations, and everything else just as they are. It teaches you the attribute of self-love and staying positive in every situation (Radical Acceptance).

Are there particular types of yoga you would encourage people to use?

Yin yoga and vinyasa yoga.

How can people in eating disorder treatment start a yoga practice? 

I would suggest if you’re interested in yoga, you can look into studio near you. Most yoga studios have a beginner’s class.  Not all yoga is “hot yoga”- there is a myth that exists about it. I would make sure that the studio is not hot yoga or power yoga. After you get comfortable with yoga, you can work your way to more difficult classes and levels.  In San Diego, there are donation classes. These donation classes are great, because they are typically outside! Listening to your body is key in any yoga class. I would also keep in mind that if you are in recovery from an eating disorder, I would make sure your treatment team (medical doctor, therapist, dietitian) is aware that you are beginning a yoga practice.


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If you are struggling to find eating disorder treatment in San Diego, give me a call for your free 15-minute phone consultation at (858) 699-3754, and I will help you get where you need to be! 

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