Get access to everything we publish when you sign up for Outside+.
When yoga teacher Chelsea Roff was 15 years old she had a stroke caused by severe anorexia. At the time, she weighed only 58 pounds. She got the treatment she needed to survive through the medical system, but she credits yoga with helping her thrive. Now, she wants to pay it forward by helping others who are suffering with eating disorders through a program she spent the last six years developing, called Yoga for Eating Disorders.
With the help of nonprofit organization Give Back Yoga Foundation, Roff recently launched an Indiegogo campaign to raise $50,000 so that she can offer her 3-day program to eating disorder centers around the country at no cost.
“My experience, as someone in recovery, is that yoga can be a game-changer in eating disorder treatment because it equips patients with skills that pharmaceuticals, talk therapy, and other traditional forms of treatment simply do not provide,” Roff said. “As a complementary treatment, I think it may prevent relapse, shorten treatment time, and teach skills for long term recovery.”
The program is necessary, Roff says, because attending a regular group yoga class might not be helpful for someone with an eating disorder, especially those who have compulsively over-exercised in the past. “We discuss potential pitfalls in the yoga practice — ways that, if we’re not careful, yoga can become a crutch for acting out in an eating disorder, rather than a tool for healing,” Roff said. The program also explores using yoga to tune into hunger and fullness signals, track emotions, and self-soothe.
As she travels to treatment centers, Roff will also gather data for a study on the effectiveness of yoga as a complementary treatment for people with eating disorders. She also plans to visit a local high school and university in each city to give a talk to students about eating disorder prevention.
To read more about the project, visit the Indiegogo campaign here.