A guest blog by dietetic intern Tanya Mezher

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Part of what intrigued me most about interning with Anastasia Health is her holistic approach to disordered eating, which includes offering yoga therapy as a course of healing and treatment. My first experiences with yoga began about five or six years ago when I sought out ways to diversify my exercise routine. The gym I visited regularly happened to offer classes to its members and I often watched curiously through the glass windows at the synchronizing yogis, as I reluctantly clung to my habit on the treadmill. Eventually, I would join my first class, forever transformed. I quickly became enamored with the uplifting, holistic effect of each experience. Yoga is much more than a physical movement - it has become a form of grounding, anxiety and stress relief, creativity, playfulness, spiritual meditation - a way to care for myself, my body, my mind, my soul. It has helped me increase awareness of my internal dialogue and thoughts - creating space for loving gentleness, kindness, patience and peace toward myself and others.

The practice of yoga is innately therapeutic, and for many, has been incorporated into their days as a way of life. Yoga has significant benefits on stress marker levels, flexibility, respiratory and cardiovascular function, anxiety, depression, pain, sleep and overall quality of life.[1] By addressing an individual as a whole being where the function and wellness of the body, mind, and soul are intricately intertwined and cannot be healed apart from the other - it is no wonder yoga therapy is considered a complementary and alternative approach to medicine.[2]

Yoga therapy is particularly influential as a complementary approach to treatment for eating disorders. Eating disorders are often categorized as anxiety disorders, in which individuals cope with emotional and psychological issues through objective manipulation of their physical bodies and behavior. Individuals who struggle with disordered eating also generally experience disconnection from and discomfort with their physical bodies - often ignoring or completely out of tune with hunger and fullness cues. The practice of yoga can be considered an embodiment or external expression of what is happening internally within the individual. By intently focusing on each breath and movement - one is brought to an awareness of the physical and emotional feelings that are present. With pauses in the stillness, an individual can be gently guided to confront anxieties, which in our typically fast moving pace we tend to bury or flee from, often resulting in harmful behavior as a means to cope. This increased sense of self-awareness facilitates a unique process of healing and attunement to our needs and respect for our bodies.

Regular yoga therapy has been shown to significantly improve body satisfaction in individuals who participate in as little as 30 minutes of yoga per week.[3] Ultimately, yoga therapy is a self-healing practice, the frequency, and duration of which are based on individual needs. Yoga can be complex and approached from various styles, however, it can also be as simple as breathing into the depths of the belly or taking a few minutes to sit in a squat to start to feel a shift in energy and mood. 

 

References:

[1.]     Woodyard, C. (2011). Exploring the therapeutic effects of yoga and its ability to increase quality of life. International Journal of Yoga, 4(2), p.49.

[2.]     (2017). Yoga: In Depth. Retrieved from: https://nccih.nih.gov/health/yoga/introduction.htm

[3.]     Neumark-Sztainer,D et al. (2018). Yoga and body image: Findings from a large population-based study of young adults. Body Image, 24:69-75.

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AuthorAnastasia Nevin
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"The most profound act of kindness we can offer to ourselves and our body is to listen without judgment, especially when it comes to understanding our food cravings and our bodies"

Check out my article for Good Zing here : http://www.goodzing.com/articles/why-self-love-starts-with-what-you-eat

Source: http://www.goodzing.com/articles/why-self-...

 

Yesterday I had the pleasure of attending an incredible lecture by Dr. Claudia Welch, a Doctor of Oriental Medicine, an Ayurvedic practitioner and author of the renown book Balance Your Hormones, Balance Your Life: Achieving Optimal Health and Wellness Through Ayurveda. 

Dr. Welch spoke to the ways in which most Western women constantly feel that what we do is "never enough" and that we have to constantly push ourselves to our edge. This constant pushing beyond what we actually want to be doing creates a context in which hormones go out of balance. Because nature always prioritizes survival over reproduction, our body reacts to this "never enough-ness" by producing a physiological stress response and pumping out high levels of cortisol and adrenaline. 

Furthermore, in order to produce this stress response, our body has to reduce the energy that goes towards production of essential sex hormones like estrogen and progesterone that nourish, build, and ground our body. Over time, this imbalance between yin and yang hormones drains our adrenal glands and puts our body into a state of depletion, leading leading to conditions such as menstrual irregularities, insomnia, anxiety. infertility, bone density loss, thyroid problems, etc. Sound familiar?

High cortisol levels also rob our body of vital nutrients and wreak havoc with digestion, which is why even the healthiest foods cannot be absorbed by a body that is in a state of stress. 

It's powerful to imagine that the root cause of dis-ease in our body is actually mostly coming from our mind!!!, which plays out a narrative of "never enough-ness". 

In other words, it is IMPOSSIBLE to have both a high stress lifestyle AND attain hormonal balance. So what can we do to start to bring more balance into our body, mind and spirit?

Dr. Welch supports the practice of reducing our level of busy-ness in order to actually live the life we want, which includes restful and nourishing activities such as spending time with girlfriends, practicing yoga, meditation, abhyanga (Ayurvedic warm oil massage), alternate-nostril breathing and the important practice of saying NO.

We also need to confront any shame/fear around slowing down and not being "productive". 

"The most important practice is spending time listening. There's a reason we're here and we keep not doing it. It's so bizarre that it takes courage to live the life we want to live"

 I hope these words from Dr. Welch help to inspire more room for slowing down, self-reflection and listening to the wisdom of your body and heart without judgment. Here's to living authentically and courageously. 

If you are interested in learning more on the topic of Ayurveda and Eating Disorders, I have posted an interview below with Dr. Claudia Welch and Chelsea Roff of Eat Breathe Thrive, a non-profit organization that prevents and helps individuals fully recover from disordered eating and negative body image through evidence-based programs that integrate yoga, community and service. 

Click HERE to listen. 

I feel very honored to have been interviewed for a Recovery Warriors podcast on yoga and eating disorder recovery.  Please listen by clicking the link below. 

https://www.recoverywarriors.com/anastasia-nevin/

"For Anastasia Nevin MS RD RYT yoga became a profound spiritual practice that helped her overcome an eating disorder and realize that we are not just a body, but we are spirits and we have souls. This appreciation and awareness awakened the calling to becoming a healer and a teacher. 

Full circle, Anastasia now helps others heal from their eating disorder by integrating nutrition therapy and yoga, the two things that helped her overcome her personal battle.  In this show, we talk all about yoga and the many deep lessons it can teach if you are willing to show up on the mat to learn"

 

Here's my latest post for Recovery Warriors!

You can link directly to the website here

As an eating disorder nutritionist, yoga therapist, and someone who is recovered, I believe that so much of recovery is about shifting out of our over-active mind and back into inhabiting and connecting to the wisdom of our body. Yoga is a spiritual practice that allows for this movement from Ego to Soul and Self. Even the simple practice of breathing into a mudra, a shape of our hands that calls upon a certain energy, can completely change how we feel. The sequence below is designed to help you practice making peace with yourself and your body by cultivating compassion and self-acceptance.