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Health & Balance

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Yoga May Aid Body Image, Cut Eating Disorders

Mind-Body Workout May Help Women Make Peace With Their Bodies

Which Came First: Yoga or Body Image?

Did yoga enhance women's sense of their bodies, or did it attract women who already felt good about themselves? More research is needed to find out. Daubenmier's study didn't assign women to do any particular form of exercise.

Also, "most individuals at risk [for eating disorders] are younger" than many women in the study, says Daubenmier.

Of course, many women who exercise aerobically don't have eating disorders. Health experts encourage men, women, and children to exercise regularly and lead an active lifestyle for optimum health.

Yoga practitioners learn to tune in to the body as it moves through the poses. That could emphasize the body's abilities, instead of its appearance, say the researchers.

Tips for Yoga Novices

Most of the study's yoga fans practiced Iyengar yoga. "That invites participants to develop sensitivity and responsiveness, in contrast to more fast-paced yoga," Daubenmier tells WebMD.

"I would recommend starting with slower Iyengar yoga to develop body awareness and familiarity with the poses," she says. The slower pace should help people avoid injury while developing confidence in listening to their bodies, says Daubenmier.

Mindful Aerobic Exercise

People who learn mindfulness from yoga can also use that approach with other forms of exercise, says Daubenmier. "These are mindfulness skills that you can then transfer over to cardiovascular workouts," she tells WebMD.

Daubenmier says aerobic workouts are often driven by music or a teacher's pacing. "It's result oriented -- what the readout on the machine tells you or the rhythm of the music, rather than listening to your own body."

Daubenmier says a study could compare the same aerobic class under two conditions: driven by music and teachers, or by self-pacing, breathing, and body awareness.

That study may be done one day. Meanwhile, mindfulness can already be tapped for your next workout, whatever it may be.

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