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Posted 05/06/2022 in Category 1

What is a yoga bod? And what body shape and size do we see on magazine covers?

What is a yoga bod? And what body shape and size do we see on magazine covers?

What is yoga bod? To answer this question, what image comes to mind when you think about a yoga body? Is it a lean body? And if so, where do you feel that image came from? We know that people have practiced yoga for thousands of years and today, its practice is growing exponentially. A nationally representative 2016 Yoga in America survey estimated the number of adults practising yoga in the last six months at 37 million. Though there are many reasons for practising yoga, from a well-being perspective, we know the physical, mental, and emotional health benefits. Researchers have shown that yoga can improve cardiovascular disease, type-2 diabetes, cancer, arthritis, asthma, depression, anxiety, posttraumatic stress disorder and social connectedness. 

But what about body image? Webb and colleagues (2017) examined the physical appearance-related characteristics (e.g., race/ethnicity, body size, shape, objectifying apparel) of 142 female models and media frames of 567 captions. These captions were things like commercialism, body competence, health, weight/physical appearance) featured of the covers of Westernised yoga lifestyle magazines published between 2010 and 2015. The models were white embodying, the ‘thin-and-lean’ media fitness aesthetic. Most of the models posed with lots of their body exposed with some models wearing tight, form fitting upper body clothes. The media frames showed commercialism and body competence equally. The magazines endorsed the exercise and fitness cultural values.

It cannot surprise us to see this image ideal of exercise and fitness cultures on the front of magazines. But what is the cost of these images we do not see? Research over the past 25 years has shown how influential media exposure on body image and dissatisfaction with one’s body image. It’s typical for us as human beings to compare with others. The challenge remains here when the ideal seems so far away from the norm. 

In contemporary society, the Western cultural fitness idea is not only thin but also muscular, which reflects excellent physical conditioning of the body. One difficulty for the public is the balance between what is healthy and achievable with what is unhealthy and unrealistic. Yoga is a healthy option for people’s mental., physical, social and emotional health. Yoga is exercise. But yoga also has a stereotypical ‘thin-and-lean yoga body’ which mirrors the normal appearance of women in other health and fitness print media. 

This juxtaposition of a healthy lifestyle choice (e.g., yoga) with the print media image of the ‘thin-and-lean yoga body’ will leave many people with uneasy feelings about their goals and their achievements in healthy exercise. Some education about thoughts, feelings, goals, and drawbacks will help to ease some barriers that might prevent someone from taking up what is a wholesome, healthy and beneficial form of exercise. The challenge for people in the community is to recognise and separate the media/marketing from the exercise and well-being available in your home or local class. Now, where is my yoga mat?


Webb, V. (2017). Is the “Yoga Bod” the new skinny? A comparative content analysis of mainstream yoga lifestyle magazine covers. Body Image, 20, 87–98. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bodyim.2016.11.005

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