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Can Yoga Aid in the Treatment of Eating Disorders? A Randomized Controlled Trial Open Access


Other title
Binge Eating Disorder
Emotion Regulation
Eating Disorders
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
Brennan, Margaret A
Supervisor and department
Whelton, William (Educational Psychology)
Examining committee member and department
Knish, Steve (UHC Student Counselling)
Hanson, William (Educational Psychology)
LaFrance Robinson, Adele (Psychology)
Gross, Doug (Physical Therapy)
Pei, Jacqueline (Educational Psychology)
Department of Educational Psychology
Counselling Psychology
Date accepted
Graduation date
Doctor of Philosophy
Degree level
Binge eating disorder (BED) and bulimia nervosa (BN) are psychological disorders with devastating effects. Many individuals with these disorders either do not seek treatment or fail to improve with standard treatments. Over the past decade, Yoga has increasingly been incorporated into the treatment of eating disorders. While preliminary research provides some support for this practice, further research is needed. This randomized controlled trial investigated the effects of participating in an eight-week Kripalu Yoga program or a waitlist control condition on women with BN and BED. Participants in both groups completed measures of binge eating frequency, self-compassion, self-criticism, and difficulties with emotion regulation at weeks zero, eight, and twelve. Participants in the Yoga group also completed measures of state mindfulness following the first, third, sixth, and eighth Yoga classes, and kept a log of their home Yoga practice. A series of mixed model ANOVAs revealed that Yoga participants experienced larger decreases in binge eating frequency, self-criticism and emotion regulation difficulties, and larger increases in self-compassion across time than controls. Yoga participants also experienced increases in mindfulness states across the eight weeks of the program. While amount of home practice predicted improvements in emotion regulation, self-compassion, and self-criticism, it did not predict changes in binge eating frequency or mindfulness skills. These results provide further support for the continued use of Yoga in eating disorder treatment. The findings also shed light on the mechanisms of change—participation in the eight-week Yoga program enhanced self-compassion and mindfulness skills, which have demonstrated benefits for individuals with eating disorders, and positively influenced self-criticism and emotion regulation difficulties, both of which perpetuate these disorders. As predicted, Kripalu Yoga was a good fit for individuals with BN or BED, likely due to its emphasis on self-compassion and mindfulness.
Permission is hereby granted to the University of Alberta Libraries to reproduce single copies of this thesis and to lend or sell such copies for private, scholarly or scientific research purposes only. The author reserves all other publication and other rights in association with the copyright in the thesis and, except as herein before provided, neither the thesis nor any substantial portion thereof may be printed or otherwise reproduced in any material form whatsoever without the author's prior written permission.
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