Research indicates the utility of yoga in the treatment of eating disorders. Yoga has been a longstanding programming component. Our yoga teacher Taylor Bird has been a long-time yogi. Taylor received her yoga teacher certification from the prestigious Yandra Yoga School. Avalon Hills offers group classes as well as individual or small group sessions based on each patient’s treatment plan. Staff yoga sessions are offered as well because we believe in practicing what we preach. Self care and meditative practices are part of our organizational values.
A common finding for those who have eating disorders that is evident in both the research literature and our clinical wisdom relates to a disconnection between mind and body. Yoga allows patients to start gently exploring how to be increasingly present in their bodies. Yoga at Avalon Hills is not focused on the calorie burn or “changing the body”. Rather, one of the primary goals for the yoga training is to foster body acceptance. Additionally, yoga is a means for patients to develop a new relationship with exercise through the power and soothing nature of meditative movement. Through continual practice, yoga interventions specifically target rewiring neuropathways. This practice builds bodily awareness. Yoga facilitates psychological development as well as physical strength.
Since the inception of Avalon Hills, therapeutic riding has been an integral component of our program. Given more recent advances in the science of understanding why sensorimotor interventions are integrative to the brain, we are able to utilize equine work at a higher level. Specifically, riding and even groundwork with horses can be a non-threatening entry point for our patients to reconnect with the function of their own bodies outside of the fears and pressures of appearance-based judgements. Horses are highly intelligent and sensitive and thus give important feedback to their human companions. Many horse professionals have referred to horses as “large biofeedback machines” because they so intuitively know the level of tension of the person riding them. Our equine team is very in tune with the experience of the horse and can reflect back the horse’s experience to the patient, which is often an important part of new insight.
For many thousands of years, the profound psychological and physical benefits of martial arts training have been known. At Avalon Hills, the study of martial arts provides a structured process in which individuals can learn methods to focus and concentrate the mind. They can learn about how to stay calm and focused in situations that might otherwise be tense. Individuals also learn practical defensive techniques that help develop a deeper body awareness and unlock the physical potential that lies in each of us. This can be especially helpful for those clients who are “dissociated” from their bodies (meaning, they don’t sense their bodies accurately and don’t feel deeply connected to them).