There is strong evidence supporting the mental health benefits of exercising in a social/group situation as opposed to alone. Thus, the exercise groups we offer are just as much about the social experience and friendship as they are about exercise. Furthermore, we focus on forms of exercise that will greatly benefit your mental wellbeing in addition to your physical health. RED HOUSE is very aware of the propensity for people with eating disorders to develop obsessive behaviours surrounding exercise. The purpose of this group is to encourage people to value and enjoy exercise for the physical and mental health benefits as opposed to something that perpetuates isolation, obsession, and eating/body image issues. Unlike many hospital programs which discourage and even forbid exercise, we view it as an important part of recovery - both physical and mental. We aim to help you develop a positive and healthy association with exercise.
Our main Yoga instructor is Lexi Crouch. Lexi is a modern times therapist basing her technique around her 15 years of a lived experience with an Eating Disorder and Exercise Addiction. She has been working in the field of addiction since 2012 and is currently in her second year of her Bachelor of Health Science, Dietetic and Nutritional Medicine. Lexi can offer further support and recovery services to individuals with eating disorders. See Lexi's website here.
Yoga – Benefits Beyond the Mat
A Better Body Image
Yoga develops inner awareness. It focuses your attention on your body's abilities at the present moment. It helps develop breath and strength of mind and body. It's not about physical appearance. Yoga studios typically don't have mirrors. This is so people can focus their awareness inward rather than how a pose — or the people around them — looks. Surveys have found that those who practiced yoga were more aware of their bodies than people who didn't practice yoga. They were also more satisfied with and less critical of their bodies. For these reasons, yoga has become an integral part in the treatment of eating disorders and programs that promote positive body image and self-esteem.
Becoming a Mindful Eater
Mindfulness refers to focusing your attention on what you are experiencing in the present moment without judging yourself. Practicing yoga has been shown to increase mindfulness not just in class, but in other areas of a person's life. Researchers describe mindful eating as a nonjudgmental awareness of the physical and emotional sensations associated with eating. They developed a questionnaire to measure mindful eating using these behaviors:
Eating even when full (disinhibition)
Being aware of how food looks, tastes and smells
Eating when sad or stressed (emotional eating)
Eating when distracted by other things
Eating in response to environmental cues, such as the sight or smell of food
A Boost to Weight Control
People who practice yoga and are mindful eaters are more in tune with their bodies. They may be more sensitive to hunger cues and feelings of fullness. Researchers found that people who practiced yoga for at least 30 minutes once a week for at least four years, gained less weight during middle adulthood. People who were overweight actually lost weight. Overall, those who practiced yoga had lower BMIs compared with those who did not practice yoga. Researchers attributed this to mindfulness. Mindful eating can lead to a more positive relationship with food and eating.
Yoga is known for its ability to soothe tension and anxiety in the mind and body. But it can also have an impact on a person's exercise capacity. Researchers studied a small group of sedentary individuals who had not practiced yoga before. After eight weeks of practicing yoga at least twice a week for a total of 180 minutes, participants had greater muscle strength and endurance, flexibility and cardio-respiratory fitness.
A LESSON FROM TIBETAN MONKS:
A friend of mine who has for many years undertaken a daily mindful meditation practice related to me this story about the Tibetan Monks that are most deeply committed to meditation:
The Monks among them who reached the deepest and most aware level of meditative state had no need to verbally relate their breakthrough to the other monks, because these monks had physically changed in a way that was observable to all. Their habitual postures had all changed: the way they sat, stood, walked, climbed steps, ate etc. They had lost the tell-tale nuances that we all often use to identify our family and friends in a crowd. They were gone. These monks now flowed as they walked. Their movement was liquid. They didn’t have tight muscles. They didn’t brace themselves against gravity. They just flowed, with grace and compassion, and were happy! While we need not aspire (out of sheer time-and-commitment practicality) to such a deep mindful state, similar benefits can be attained with a much lighter commitment to meditative practices, exercise, stretch, and being mindful of how we move. Since many chronic sufferers of eating disorders have experienced "punishing" regimes of exercise addiction, introducing exercise that aids unshackling from habitual postures that lock in (psycho-somatically) feelings of deep insecurity and low self-esteem can be of great benefit to many sufferers.
Mindfulness and Yoga
Research on yoga, stress reduction, and relaxation therapy shows positive outcomes for anxiety and depression. There is an especially large body of research showing that the practice of mindfulness can have a profound impact on mood. Mindfulness meditation has been shown to improve symptoms of anxiety and depression after just eight weeks. Mindful movement practices, such as yoga, tai chi, and qigong, may also offer relief. Given that it costs little to learn these practices and there is little risk, they are worth pursuing. In addition to evidence of effectiveness, these practices can provide a sense of control over at least one aspect of life.
Yoga, an ancient practice and meditation, has become increasingly popular in today's busy society. For many people, yoga provides a retreat from their chaotic and busy lives. This is true whether you're practicing downward facing dog posture on a mat in your bedroom, in an ashram in India or even in New York City's Times Square. Yoga provides many other mental and physical benefits. Some of these extend to the kitchen table.
Types of Yoga
There are many types of yoga. Hatha (a combination of many styles) is one of the most popular styles. It is a more physical type of yoga rather than a still, meditative form. Hatha yoga focuses on pranayamas (breath-controlled exercises). These are followed by a series of asanas (yoga postures), which end with savasana (a resting period). The goal during yoga practice is to challenge yourself physically, but not to feel overwhelmed. At this "edge," the focus is on your breath while your mind is accepting and calm.
The researchers found that people who practiced yoga were more mindful eaters according to their scores. Both years of yoga practice and number of minutes of practice per week were associated with better mindful eating scores. Practicing yoga helps you be more aware how your body feels. This heightened awareness can carry over to mealtime as you savor each bite or sip, and note how food smells, tastes and feels in you mouth.
Several small studies have found yoga to have a positive effect on cardiovascular risk factors: It helped lower blood pressure in people who have hypertension. It's likely that the yoga restores "baroreceptor sensitivity." This helps the body senses imbalances in blood pressure and maintain balance. Another study found that practicing yoga improved lipid profiles in healthy patients as well as patients with known coronary artery disease. It also lowered excessive blood sugar levels in people with non-insulin dependent diabetes and reduced their need for medications. Yoga is now being included in many cardiac rehabilitation programs due to its cardiovascular and stress-relieving benefits. Researchers are also studying if yoga can help people with depression and arthritis, and improve survival from cancer. Yoga may help bring calm and mindfulness to your busy life.
Opening the chest with stretches, loosening the tight hip and thigh muscles so many of us have, and replacing these “locked-in” states with an easy commitment to one of many mindful movement modalities that are available. Yoga, Clinical Pilates, Tai-Chi or Chi-Gong, Feldenkrais, Rolfing, or the Alexander Technique are all examples of this. Even a broad array of sports stretches or sports massages have benefit in giving us that repeated stimulus reminding us that our bodies are made to be fluid, flexible, and dynamic, and over time, the fluidity of our minds and context that we approach each new day can follow.
What makes mindfulness beneficial to our health, psyche, and overall quality of life? Read:
By Dr Daniel Siegel (expert in neuroplasticity and author of Mindsight: The New Science of Personal Transformation and co-director of the UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center).
In addition to discussing Mindful Eating in our Nourish to Flourish and Social Sunday Lunch groups, RED HOUSE will hold a Mindful Movement (e.g. a mixture of Hatha/Yoga, Pilates, Tai Chi, Dance Movement) class each week. These will be taken by qualified instructors on Saturday afternoons from 4.30pm-5.30pm. This will follow the 'Nourish to Flourish' cooking class and afternoon tea. The Mindful Movement class is included in the cost of your registration for the 'Nourish to Flourish' program. Register here.