Yoga in the Treatment of Eating Disorders

photo used under a creative commons license

In 2010, Newman’s Own funded a pilot program at the Seattle Children’s outpatient Adolescent Medicine Department. The pilot program was implemented to evaluate the effect of yoga on eating disorder treatment outcomes among teenagers receiving outpatient treatment for anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (EDNOS).The study involved 50 girls and 4 boys between the ages of 11-21; 29 participants were diagnosed with anorexia nervosa, 9 participants were diagnosed with bulimia nervosa, 15 participants were diagnosed with EDNOS. Participants were randomly divided into two groups. One group received standard care; standard care involved appointments with a physician and dietician every other week which monitored weight/height, vital signs, body mass index, nutritional habits, and menstruation status. The second group of participants received yoga instruction plus standard care; yoga instruction involved one hour of one-to-one individualized viniyoga, semi-weekly. Participants were evaluated at the beginning of the study, at the end of the study, and one month after the study via Eating Disorder Examination (EDE), Body Mass Index (BMI), Beck Depression Inventory, State Trait Anxiety Inventory, and Food Preoccupation questionnaire.

Immediately after yoga sessions, participants experienced a significant decrease in their preoccupation with food; this was evaluated using the Food Preoccupation questionnaire.  Although both groups experienced a decrease in EDE scores, the group that received yoga plus standard of care exhibited greater decreases in symptoms of their eating disorders. At the 12-week follow-up, the EDE scores non-yoga group had returned to baseline; this was not the case with the yoga group. BMI remained stable for both the yoga and non-yoga group; participants with anorexia nervosa did not lose weight, participants with bulimia nervosa did not experience rapid weight fluctuations. Based upon the results of the study, the researchers concluded that individualized yoga does hold promise as adjunctive therapy to standard care. The full results of the study can be viewed HERE.

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