Does Yoga Encourage Eating Disorders?

People come to yoga for many reasons – to stretch the hamstrings, to build a mind-body connection, to increase self-awareness. So I was surprised – no, make that shocked – to see a leading yoga magazine advise its readers to stick their fingers down their throat and vomit in order to burn fat and trim the waist.

A reader ‘Eric’ writes to Yoga Magazine’s Yogi Dr Malik questioning the process, having read about it in an old yoga book published in 1959. Eric states that it ‘…sounds a bit extreme’ and asks, ‘…Is this really a yogic technique?’

The reply, in the May issue, essentially, provided what I see as a manual for bulimia nervosa.

It read: ‘Bend your head over the bucket (or sink) and using the index finger and middle finger, tickle the inside of your throat, push the fingers down into the epiglottis and you should vomit…Performing The Tiger exercise gives the body a helping hand to remove any foods and liquids it does not require.’

Yoga Magazine was attempting to explain the finer points of a centuries old yoga purification technique – The Tiger exercise – but failed to provide any historical context, or caution (except to pregnant women and children.) Originally a technique used in Middle Ages India to purify the body as a means of preparing it for a state of Samadhi (enlightenment), vomiting up excess food in the West in the 21st Century has no spiritual connotations whatsoever.

‘If you practice this at least once a week, you will notice a difference in the shape of your abdomen and hips,’ Yoga Magazine continued. ‘Push the fingers down the throat and vomit. Repeat this process until you are only vomiting water with no traces of leftover food.’

Has Yoga Magazine, in one fell swoop, validated bulimia, enabling suffers of the eating disorder to rationalize their self-harming in vaguely yogic terms? When really, Vyaghra kriyā, as the 15th Century technique is known in Sanskrit, has absolutely no relevance in contemporary Western yoga practice.

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