Yoga as an Embodiment Practice for Positive Body Image

Yoga can support positive body image in women.

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A positive body image is predictive of emotional and psychological health. Negative body image is a growing concern in current Western society within which the 'thin, beautiful' body if female and the 'toned, handsome' body if male are held up as the holy grail to happiness. Negative body image is tangled up in low self-worth, flailing self-esteem and a sense that one is not good as one is unless one looks a certain way. The increasing numbers of people diagnosed with eating disorders and body dysmorphic disorder among other presentations points to just how important it is to find avenues of cultivating a positive relationship with the body.

Researchers such as Tracy Tylka, Rachel Calogero and others have looked at how yoga, as an embodiment practice, can nurture a positive relationship with the body. We were pleased to see the study below in this month's edition of Body Image journal looking at the embodiment model in the context of yoga's benefits for positive body image.

This study aimed to test the Embodiment Model of Positive Body Image (Menzel & Levine, 2011) within the context of yoga. Participants were 193 yoga practitioners and 127 university students who did not practice yoga from Australia. Participants completed questionnaire measures of positive body image, embodiment, self-objectification, and desire for thinness. Results showed yoga practitioners scored higher on positive body image and embodiment, and lower on self-objectification than non-yoga participants. Researchers concluded that yoga is an embodying activity that can provide women with the opportunity to cultivate a positive, even loving, relationship with their body. We have little doubt that similar results would be found in a study of male yoga practitioners too.

Heather Mason

Founder of the Minded Institute, The Minded Institute

Heather Mason is a leader in the field of mind-body therapy and the founder of Yoga Therapy for the Mind. She develops innovative methods for mental health treatment drawing on her robust educational background including an MA in Psychotherapy, an MA in Buddhist Studies, studies in Neuroscience and a current MSc in Medical Physiology.. She is also a 500 RYT, a yoga therapist and an MBCT facilitator. Heather offers various professional trainings for yoga teachers, healthcare professionals and therapists, lectures around the world, and delivers training to medical students. She also develops protocols for different client populations by translating cutting edge research from the psycho-biology and neuro-biology of stress into yoga practices, breathwork, mindfulness interventions and therapeutic holding. Further she is involved in research on the efficacy of these practices, holds the annual UK yoga therapy conference and is blazing the trail for the integration of yoga therapy into the NHS