Randomized controlled clinical trial of yoga in the treatment of eating disorders

J Adolesc Health. 2010 Apr;46(4):346-51. doi: 10.1016/j.jadohealth.2009.08.007. Epub 2009 Nov 3.


Purpose: This was a pilot project designed to assess the effect of individualized yoga treatment on eating disorder outcomes among adolescents receiving outpatient care for diagnosed eating disorders (anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, eating disorder not otherwise specified).

Methods: A total of 50 girls and 4 boys aged 11-21 years were randomized to an 8-week trial of standard care vs. individualized yoga plus standard care. Of these, 27 were randomized to standard care and 26 to yoga plus standard care (attrition: n = 4). Standard care (every other week physician and/or dietician appointments) was required to meet ethical guidelines. The No Yoga group was offered yoga after study completion as an incentive to maintain participation. Outcomes evaluated at baseline, end of trial, and 1-month follow-up included Eating Disorder Examination (EDE), Body Mass Index (BMI), Beck Depression Inventory, State-Trait Anxiety Inventory, and Food Preoccupation questionnaire.

Results: The Yoga group demonstrated greater decreases in eating disorder symptoms. Specifically, the EDE scores decreased over time in the Yoga group, whereas the No Yoga group showed some initial decline but then returned to baseline EDE levels at week 12. Food preoccupation was measured before and after each yoga session, and decreased significantly after all sessions. Both groups maintained current BMI levels and decreased in anxiety and depression over time.

Conclusions: Individualized yoga treatment decreased EDE scores at 12 weeks, and significantly reduced food preoccupation immediately after yoga sessions. Yoga treatment did not have a negative effect on BMI. Results suggest that individualized yoga therapy holds promise as adjunctive therapy to standard care.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Behavior / psychology*
  • Anorexia Nervosa / rehabilitation
  • Body Image*
  • Body Mass Index
  • Bulimia Nervosa / rehabilitation
  • Child
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy / methods
  • Combined Modality Therapy
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders / psychology
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders / rehabilitation*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Yoga*
  • Young Adult