Yoga and body image: How do young adults practicing yoga describe its impact on their body image?

Body Image. 2018 Dec:27:156-168. doi: 10.1016/j.bodyim.2018.09.001. Epub 2018 Oct 3.


This study explored the perceived impact of yoga on body image. Young adults (n= 34 female, 12 male; Mage = 30.6 [SD = 1.6]) practicing yoga were interviewed and data were analyzed for emerging themes across weight status. In general, participants discussed the positive impact of yoga on their body image, but some described both a positive and negative impact. Yoga was perceived as having a positive impact on body image via perceived physical changes, gratitude for one's body, a sense of accomplishment within one's yoga practice, self-confidence, and witnessing different types of bodies practicing yoga. Yoga was perceived to have a negative impact on body image via comparative critique (e.g., upward comparisons with others) and inner critique (e.g., negative self-talk). Themes were generally similar across weight status; exceptions were that participants at higher weight status were more likely than those at lower weight status to discuss accomplishment within one's yoga practice as a positive impact on body image and comparative critique as a negative impact on body image. Yoga studios and instructors can take steps to further enhance the positive impact of yoga and to provide environments that are inclusive of participants with diverse body shapes and sizes.

Keywords: Body image; Body satisfaction; Eating disorders; Yoga; Young adults.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Body Image / psychology*
  • Body Weight
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Meditation
  • Self Concept*
  • Yoga / psychology*