Yoga in Print Media: Missing the Heart of the Practice

Int J Yoga. Sep-Dec 2017;10(3):160-166. doi: 10.4103/ijoy.IJOY_1_17.

Abstract

Background: Popular media typically portray yoga as an exercise or posture practice despite the reality that yoga comprised eight practices (called limbs) including ethical behavior, conscious lifestyle choices, postures, breathing, introspection, concentration, meditation, and wholeness.

Aim: This study assessed the comprehensiveness of yoga practice as represented in articles in the popular yoga magazine, Yoga Journal. It explored the degree to which articles referenced each of the eight limbs of yoga and other contents (e.g., fitness, spirituality).

Materials and methods: Six coders were trained to reliably and independently review 702 articles in 33 Yoga Journal issues published between 2007 and 2014, coding for the limbs of yoga and other contents.

Results: Breathing and postures were most frequently referenced, which were covered in 48.7% and 40.1% of articles. Internal practices were covered in 36.5% of articles with introspection being the most and concentration the least commonly referred to internal practices. Ethical and lifestyle practices were least frequently covered (5.2% and 6.8%). Since 2007, coverage of postures steadily increased, whereas contents related to the other limbs steadily decreased. The most frequent other contents related to fitness (31.7%), spirituality (20.8), and relationships (18.7%) coverage of these did not change across time.

Conclusions: Representation of yoga in articles contained in the most popular yoga magazine is heavily biased in favor of physical practices. Recommendations are offered about how to shift media representation of yoga to make the heart of the practice more accessible to individuals who could experience health benefits but currently feel excluded from the practice.

Keywords: Limbs of yoga; media representation of yoga; perceptions of yoga; yoga.