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The effects of yoga on body image and appreciation

I'm studying my BA Psychology major with a minor in Family & Small Business Management, so I am a research nerd! I love coming across studies that other Psychologists have conducted, especially in regards to yoga, meditation, emotional well-being, empowerment, body image, and appreciation.

I recently found a study conducted by Jessica M. Alleva and colleagues (2020) on The effect of yoga on functionality appreciation and additional facets of positive body image, and I was blown away! In the study, researchers randomly 114 young adult women with a median age of 22.19 to a 10-week Hatha program or a waitlist control group. They measured "functionality appreciation, body appreciation, body compassion, appearance evaluation, self-objectification, and embodiment at Pretest, Midtest, Posttest, and 1-month Follow-Up". What they found was that "compared to the control group, women in the yoga programme experienced lower self-objectification at Midtest and greater embodiment over time. Further, all participants experienced improvements in body appreciation, body compassion, and appearance evaluation over time, regardless of their assigned group. Lower self-objectification contributed to improvements in body appreciation and body compassion. In addition, greater embodiment contributed to improvements in body appreciation, body compassion, and appearance evaluation".

So what does that all mean? Young adult women who participated in a Hatha program for 10 weeks had lower self-objectification, greater embodiment, improved body appreciation, body compassion, and appearance evaluation. Yoga has been shown to increase your self-love. "Helping women to counteract an appearance-based orientation toward the body... should contribute to improvements in body image" (Alleva, et al., 2020). And according to participants, "the instructor helped them to value their body functionality more than their physical appearance".

Wow! Does that not strike you? "The instructor helped them to value their body functionality more than their physical appearance"! As a yoga teacher, that blows me away. The fact that I am able to aid women (and men) in valuing their functionality more than their physical appearance is everything. It's great to look good, but what's better is how amazing our bodies are and the incredible things they are capable of doing. If you've attended any of my classes, you may have heard me talk about giving gratitude for your body, for how strong it is, and for "how hard it worked for you today". This may sound kind of fluffy. And if you've been in one of my classes, you may have thought "wow, what a hippie!". But it's true! How often do we thank our bodies for their functionality? I'm guessing a lot less than when we look at ourselves in the mirror and point out all the things we don't like about our appearances.

"The findings are also important because they show, for the first time, that yoga practice leads to greater embodiment," (Alleva, et al., 2020). Leads to great embodiment. Yoga can actually lead to women (and men) having more self-love and positive body image. Participants reported, "experiencing high levels of comfort during the yoga class, and body comfort has been shown to be a key facet of embodiment". Yoga may be a great workout, but the benefits also come from the comfort.

"Optimistically, there is evidence that yoga is becoming more easily accessible and welcoming to all, such as via ‘yoga at every size’ programmes, and online or video variants that can overcome potential barriers (e.g., money) or ‘risks’ (e.g., social comparisons) of face-to-face classes" (e.g., Stanley, 2017; Webb et al., 2020, as cited in All

eva, et al., 2020). I think that is huge! I know for myself as a teacher, one of my greatest goals is to make yoga accessible to every body. I remind my students, yoga is not about hitting the perfect instagram-worthy pose; it's about the connection between mind, body, and spirit, having appreciation for your body, and loving yourself and meeting yourself where you're at. I love that yoga is able to "overcome potential barriers". I believe that yoga should be accessible to everyone, despite situation. That is why you will find classes and programs on my website, but you will also find FREE online classes on my YouTube channel. Even if I'm not working with you directly, I am happy to provide resources for you to make significant changes in your life, despite any potential barriers.

I invite you to check out my YouTube channel and my Programs, to find a fit for you. And if it is not me, I also know some other incredible resources that I can point you towards. If our energy doesn't jive, I don't want that to hold you back from what you want to achieve.

As always, I love receiving your constructive comments, questions, and feedback. Thank you for all the love and support you have shown on social media and through my website. May you receive love and light. Namaste.

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Alleva, Jessica M, Tylka, Tracy L, van Oorsouw, Kim, Montanaro, Erika, Perey, Iris, Bolle, Cheyenne, et al. (2020). The effects of yoga on functionality appreciation and additional facets of positive body image. Body Image, 34, 184-195.

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