Yoga for Eating Disorders

"Yoga helped me learn how to breathe through the discomfort that my life had become." 
-Joanna O'Neal, from Yoga and Eating Disorders

By learning how to breathe deeply, stay present, and open our minds to possibilities versus limitations, yoga can shine a bright light on our innate strengths and support us as we take baby steps to make new choices in our recovery. The results can be surprisingly empowering. I know because yoga has been the key to my recovery from anorexia. Based on my experiential knowledge and professional training as a yoga therapist, my goal is to teach you new tools that will help you get unstuck and moving forward.

You will learn

  • how to breathe deeply and calm your mind 
  • yoga poses to build mental and physical strength
  • grounding techniques to get you through hard meals and moments
  • yoga concepts that empower and offer new ways to think about your thoughts, actions, and body
  • how to get comfortable in your body
  • how to observe yourself instead of judge
  • how to be present instead of trapped in "ED Head"
  • the power of mantra and meditation

I get that it can feel scary to do or try yoga and be in your body. But I promise I will be there to guide you. No matter what you're thinking, feeling, or fearing, I've been there. I know your struggle because it's been my struggle. I am dedicated to creating a safe space for you to reconnect with your body in the most positive way possible so that you experience your body as a source of strength.

Benefits

Everyone's experience with and goals for yoga and eating disorder recovery will be unique, but here is a list of some of the general benefits based on my own life, what clients have shared, and current research.

  • improve overall sense of self
  • quiet the eating disorder voice
  • redefine the relationship with your body
  • cultivate compassion and curiosity about your body
  • explore moments of feeling comfortable in your body
  • strengthen your self-expression
  • reframe how and why we feed our bodies
  • expand your world to be so much more than food, symptoms, and body image
  • help manage depression and anxiety
  • cultivate self-reliance 
  • increase self-worth
  • enhance physical strength and health
  • improve organ function
  • calm the central nervous system
  • establish new beliefs grounded in health versus disordered eating
  • complement traditional forms of treatment and therapy

My Approach

Yoga therapy is a holistic healing modality that restores physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health. It is based on ancient yogic texts and modern medicine. Unlike a group yoga class, we will work together 1 x 1 in person or virtually. By focusing on lifestyle factors such as work, relationships, rest, movement, and thoughts, you will learn how to decrease stress, improve the quality of your life, and get unstuck in your recovery. 

Our work together begins with a free 30-minute Discovery Call. During this time I will answer your questions about yoga and eating disorders and share specifics about my services. Our sessions will include a combination of

  • discussion
  • yoga poses 
  • breathing exercises
  • mental techniques
  • meditation
  • relaxation
  • lifestyle education

No two sessions are the same. We will work on what is important to you and will help you on that given day. Unlike how traditional therapy travels back in time to discover root causes, the goal of yoga therapy for eating disorders is to create tools and practices to help you address the here and now. Additionally, unlike traditional forms of treatment and therapy for eating disorders, we will not be narrowly focused on food or your specific symptoms. Instead, we will broaden the realm of recovery and healing beyond those topics to cultivate resilience and infuse your recovery with new energy, concepts, and motivation. 

*Please note: You must be cleared for physical activity by your physician to participate.
*Basic yoga experience recommended but not required.

My Story

My eating disorder came back with a vengeance after the birth of my second child. I was diagnosed with anorexia 22 years ago in college, and at that time, I received inpatient treatment and then a lengthy course of therapy. Yoga was the most empowering therapeutic modality, however, and it saved me from relapsing several times over the 18 years before I had children.

As I held my baby girl in the hospital, filled with all the mother’s love possible, a sinister drive to drop the baby weight as fast as possible rang in my head. I systematically began to eliminate foods from my diet and cut my intake. The responsibility of nursing my daughter kept my restriction in check, as I would never risk jeopardizing my daughter’s health and growth. When I stopped nursing at 8 months, however, all bets were off. I spiraled into severe restriction and was hospitalized before her first birthday.

I have come to understand my illness is like a silent temper tantrum, a quiet way to express unhappiness, sadness, anger, hurt, pain, and disappointment. Recovery is the process of learning how to use my voice to express feelings and emotions. This is a tall order, as the daily demands of life are relentless. My recovery journey, therefore, has been about learning how to stay connected with my voice and body and trust that I have choices, that I am in charge of my life.

The gift of my relapse is how it reignited my yoga practice. Yoga teaches me how to connect from the inside out. I rest my mind on my breath as I embody the characteristics that are essential to my ability to sustain a well-supported recovery. I sense my strength and confidence in warrior poses, courage in wheel pose, grace in dancer’s pose, openness in triangle pose, peace in hero’s pose, and support in child’s pose. I fold and surrender, reach and grow, twist and energize. For me, this is what freedom feels like.

My relapse also empowered me to change the direction of my career. I have since left my job, started Chime Yoga Therapy, and returned to teaching yoga. I also became a trained yoga therapist and specialize in eating disorders. Besides raising my children, I believe there is nothing more important I can do with my life than to help others reconnect with their bodies and feel empowered in their lives. 

You can learn more about my story on my blog, in my publications (under Press), or contact me directly.