Traditionally, yoga is a holistic philosophy that integrates the mind and the body; other principles include ethical behavior towards the self and others. Hatha yoga, the most widely practiced form of yoga in the US, utilizes physical postures, movement, controlled breathing, and meditation to improve physiological and psychological well-being. Some of the psychological benefits that have been found during cross-sectional research include reduced negative body image, self objectification, eating disturbances, improved mindful body awareness, body responsiveness, body appreciation, and intuitive eating. Research also suggests practicing yoga motivates people to participate in physical activity for health rather than aesthetics.
Despite the positive benefits listed above, research within the last eight years suggests there may be negative thoughts and behaviors associated with yoga as well. A large sample of young adult women found participation in yoga and Pilates was associated with unhealthy weight control behaviors. Other reports describe a link between yoga participation and disordered eating behaviors.
Some forms of modern yoga have shifted from prioritizing spiritual and psychological aspects of the practice to emphasizing the physical and athletic side. A stereotypical definition of the physical representation of yoga practitioners is often defined by mainstream media outlets as having a “yoga body,” which resembles the toned, ultra-thin fitness ideal.
Westernized yoga magazines use models representing this aesthetic on their covers and in their advertisements. They are also often portrayed in physically demanding postures scantily clad. The visual representation of yoga in this way fuses physical appearance with body functionality. This type of media representation may also increase risks of disordered eating and body image disturbance.
This research aims to evaluate perceived body size, body shape, breast size, the level of yoga pose, body visibility, and skin exposure for the models on the cover of Yoga Journal between the years 1975-2015.