Monday, August 28, 2006

Eating Disorders and Yoga Therapy

More than 10 million women and a million men are affected by eating disorders in the United States alone. Most are teens, and the common illnesses are anorexia and bulimia. Physical factors related to these illnesses have only been recently acknowledged as mental factors that were previously believed to be responsible for the conditions. Eating disorders are triggered by several factors, including social, biological, psychological and behavioral issues.

A focused mind has a better chance of preventing eating disorders. Yoga has been proven to reduce depression and create a state of well-being. Various yoga practices encourage higher levels of self-esteem and promote a positive body image. This is a crucial factor in eating disorders and has been shown to increase recovery. By eliminating self judgment, yoga strengthens the connection between mind and body, allowing the two elements to cooperate in decreasing negative effects. Anorexia affects energy levels and reduces bone density. Regular yoga practice increases the overall fitness of the body, giving it a chance to fight illnesses.

Yoga identifies eating disorders as a problem with the first charka, and different poses are used to balance it: crab, full wind, pigeon, locust, staff, etc. Strength and determination increase by using grounding postures such as mountain, goddess, standing squat and prayer squat. The postures re-establish the mind-body connections and help overcome physical obstacles. Back-bending poses reduce depression, and forward bends calm the spirit and reduce the effects of anorexia.

The mental component plays an important role in eating disorders, and meditation can reduce harmful thoughts and feelings. Active, focused meditation proves to be effective. Less obvious results can also be obtained by using a general meditation technique. Yoga works best when exterior elements are excluded and concentration focuses on inner aspects. Focusing on breathing and inner sensations takes you to a state of increased awareness. This state allows you to explore concepts that will let you achieve goals that have previously proved problematic.

Being aware of the problem and showing a strong desire to change it is a great method of reducing the effects of eating disorders. Adopting yoga practices would make the patient more aware of the problem, and thus contribute to a cure. However, these yoga techniques are usually used in recuperation. Most people with anorexia or bulimia go through a stage of denial, which makes their condition worse. As with all illnesses, yoga works best in the prevention stage, when negative effects are easier to eliminate.

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