Poor body image is a critical barrier to eating disorder recovery. This pilot project was designed as a feasibility study to examine a novel group-based, therapeutic yoga and body image program (YBI) for addressing negative body image in those clinically diagnosed with an eating disorder (anorexia, bulimia nervosa, and other specified feeding or eating disorder) receiving outpatient level treatment at an eating disorder treatment center located in Minneapolis–St. Paul, Minnesota. Self-administered questionnaires were completed by 67 participants at the beginning and end of the 8-week series, to better understand the acceptability of the YBI program and its potential effects on body image and self-worth during outpatient eating disorder treatment. Quantitative survey questions assessed participants’ body image concerns, while open-ended questions probed participants’ experiences and the perceived impact of the yoga program on their body image. After completion of the yoga program, mean item scores on the body image concern survey improved: increases ranged from 0.3 to 0.8 points on a 5-point scale. In open-ended questions, participants described many positive changes to their body image. Participants reported that the yoga program improved their self-acceptance, self-awareness, confidence, emotional and physical strength, and was a positive form of release. Participants also discussed physical and emotional challenges of the yoga program and how they contributed to self-judgment, vulnerability, and confrontation of uncomfortable feelings. The results of this pilot study are promising and warrant consideration of more rigorous study designs to explore the potential of a body image specific therapeutic yoga program to aid those in eating disorder treatment to improve body image disturbances.
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