Why Yoga Is Part of My Eating Disorder Recovery

March 4, 2020 Mary-Elizabeth Schurrer

I had no intention of being someone who unrolls a mat in a candlelit room and chants, "Namaste," with my palms entwined at heart's center, but this is me nonetheless—yoga is now part of my eating disorder recovery, and I am thankful for the conduit of healing it's become. I have a long, complicated—and, at times, unhealthy—relationship with exercise. I am also an intense, feisty, and energetic person by nature which means that my workouts often match this intensity, but one exercise that I never imagined I would feel such a profound, almost sacred connection to is yoga.

The gentle body postures, rooted sense of mindfulness and deeply-controlled breathwork form a harmonious connection between the physical, mental, and emotional trifecta that makes me fully human. This integration has allowed me to feel more vitalized, empowered, resilient, and compassionate toward myself which, in turn, helps me to be at peace with my own body image. Of course, there are times when insecurities emerge, but in these moments, I need yoga the most. It would be easier to lace my sneakers and outrun those critical inner voices for an excessive amount of miles. But a yoga practice asks me to slow down and breathe, move with intuition, feel the uncomfortable emotions, then dismantle whether the critiques are even true. So for this reason, yoga is now part of my eating disorder recovery.  

My Experience with Yoga and Eating Disorder Recovery       

I was first introduced to yoga as a therapeutic outlet two years ago in the midst of a tumultuous, self-destructive season. I was newly married, a traumatic memory from college had just resurfaced, and my eating disorder patterns were out of control. At one of my lowest depths, a close friend and mentor tossed me a lifeline and invited me to a yoga class with her. I will never forget how the instructor kneeled beside me during the practice, adjusted my tense and rigid body with such precise tenderness, then whispered, "Let go. Just let it go."

I don't know if she could sense the pain that followed me into the room, but in this brief encounter, I experienced a lightness and a desire to release toxic behaviors. This was the start of yoga's restorative impact on my life. 

Now fast-forward to the summer of 2019—I was on vacation with my husband in Austin, Texas, and we participated in a "yoga hike" around Barton Springs just outside the urban pulse of downtown. Although we had only ventured about three miles from all the food trucks and skyscrapers, I felt a quietude and calmness surround me which yoga never fails to administer. As we hiked through the area's native pecan trees, bouldered across the slabs of rock, dipped our toes in the ancient waters of this aquifer, then meditated and asana-ed on the shore, I learned another valuable lesson from yoga. The essence of my whole being—spirit, mind, and body—is not how I look in the mirror and present to the world. It's steeped in my connection to nature, the earth, and life itself. The sum total of my parts is as soulful and enduring as the breeze that ripples the water or rustles a tree branch. I have more to offer this planet than just my external appearance.                 

How Yoga Benefits Me in Eating Disorder Recovery

How I practice yoga in this current season of recovery is different than when I first started. Back then, I wrestled to separate my time on the mat from that intensity and drive to perform which, my eating disorder insisted, was the only acceptable form of exercise. Today, I understand that movement should not be to punish or subjugate this one body I am blessed with—movement is a celebration of what the body can do, what it needs, and what it enjoys. This body functions to keep me alive, so the least I can offer it is an hour of conscious breath, an open heart, a clear mind, and a rhythmic flow of poses. I still crave the sweat and exertion of a cardio workout at times, and in moderation, I see no problem with that. But yoga is now part of my eating disorder recovery—and will continue to be for years to come.  

APA Reference
Schurrer, M. (2020, March 4). Why Yoga Is Part of My Eating Disorder Recovery, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 21 from

Author: Mary-Elizabeth Schurrer

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