Researchers from Seattle Children's Hospital ran a pilot study designed to assess the impact of individualized yoga treatment on adolescents receiving outpatient care for diagnosed eating disorders (anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, eating disorder not otherwise specified).

A total of 50 girls and 4 boys, aged 11-21 years, were randomized to an 8-week trial of standard care (n = 27) vs. individualized yoga therapy (n = 26) plus standard care. Standard care consisted of an appointment every other week with a physician and/or dietician. (This arm was offered yoga after completion of the study as an incentive to maintain participation.)

Outcomes were evaluated at baseline, at the end of the trial, and at 1-month follow-up, and included the Eating Disorder Examination (EDE), Body Mass Index (BMI), Beck Depression Inventory, State-Trait Anxiety Inventory, and Food Preoccupation questionnaire.
The Yoga group demonstrated greater decreases in eating disorder symptoms. Specifically, the EDE scores decreased over time in the Yoga group, whereas the standard care 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.
The researchers conclude that 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.
Citation: Carei TR, Fyfe-Johnson AL, Breuner CC, Brown MA. Randomized controlled clinical trial of yoga in the treatment of eating disorders. Journal of Adolescent Health. 2010 Apr; 46 (4): pp. 346-51. Epub 2009 Nov 3. [email protected]