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This study tested whether distress tolerance, body image, and body mass index (BMI) predicted adherence to a yoga intervention. Participants were 27 women who participated in a yoga intervention as part of a randomized controlled trial. Attendance and distress tolerance were assessed weekly, and body image and BMI were measured at baseline. Multilevel modeling revealed a three-way interaction of distress tolerance, BMI, and body image (p < .001). For participants with few body image concerns, distress tolerance was positively associated with adherence regardless of BMI (p = .009). However, for those with poor body image, increases in distress tolerance were associated with increases in adherence among overweight participants (p < .001) but lower adherence among obese participants (p = .007). Distress tolerance may be implicated in adherence to a yoga intervention, although its effects may be dependent on body image concerns, BMI, and their interaction. Research and clinical implications are discussed.

Individuals with low distress tolerance (DT) experience negative emotion as particularly threatening and are highly motivated to reduce or avoid such affective experiences. Consequently, these individuals have difficulty regulating emotions and tend to engage in maladaptive strategies, such as overeating, as a means to reduce or avoid distress. Hatha yoga encourages one to implement present-centered awareness and non-reaction in the face of physical and psychological discomfort and, thus, emerges as a potential strategy for increasing DT. To test whether a hatha yoga intervention can enhance DT, a transdiagnostic risk and maintenance factor, this study randomly assigned females high in emotional eating in response to stress (N = 52) either to an 8-week, twice-weekly hatha (Bikram) yoga intervention or to a waitlist control condition. Self-reported DT and emotional eating were measured at baseline, weekly during treatment, and 1-week post-treatment. Consistent with prediction, participants in the yoga condition reported greater increases in DT over the course of the intervention relative to waitlist participants (Cohen's d = .82). Also consistent with prediction, the reduction in emotional eating was greater for the yoga condition than the waitlist condition (Cohen's d = .92). Importantly, reductions distress absorption, a specific sub-facet of DT, accounted for 15% of the variance in emotional eating, a hallmark behavior of eating pathology and risk factor for obesity.

OBJECTIVE: Cortisol reactivity to stress is associated with affective eating, an important behavioral risk factor for obesity and related metabolic diseases. Yoga practice is related to decreases in stress and cortisol levels, thus emerging as a potential targeted complementary intervention for affective eating. This randomized controlled trial examined the efficacy of a heated, hatha yoga intervention for reducing cortisol reactivity to stress and affective eating. METHOD: Females (N = 52; ages 25-46 years; 75% White) at risk for obesity and related illnesses were randomly assigned to 8 weeks of Bikram Yoga practice or to waitlist control. Cortisol reactivity to a laboratory stress induction were measured at Weeks 0 (pretreatment) and 9 (posttreatment). Self-reported binge eating frequency and coping motives for eating were assessed at Weeks 0, 3, 6, and 9. RESULTS: Among participants with elevated cortisol reactivity at pretreatment ("high reactors"), those randomized to the yoga condition evidenced greater pre- to posttreatment reductions in cortisol reactivity (p = .042, d = .85), but there were not significant condition differences for the "low reactors" (p = .178, d = .53). Yoga participants reported greater decreases in binge eating frequency (p = .040, d = .62) and eating to cope with negative affect (p = .038, d = .54). CONCLUSIONS: This study provides preliminary support for the efficacy of heated hatha yoga for treating physiological stress reactivity and affective eating among women at risk for obesity-related illnesses. (PsycINFO Database Record