MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – A new study led by a University of Minnesota researcher suggests that practicing yoga holds promise for helping those with a negative body image feel better about themselves.

In the study, which was published in the academic journal Body Image, researchers interviewed 46 adults – 34 women and 12 men, all of various body types – who practiced yoga at least 30 minutes a week over the past year.

The researchers, led by Dianne Neumark-Sztainer, of the University of Minnesota’s School of Public Health, found that most of most of the participants (83 percent) found that yoga had a positive impact on their body image. This came from the practice’s physical challenges, feelings of being grateful for one’s body and enjoyment at seeing different types of bodies engaging in the practice.

However, several participants (28 percent) reported that yoga’s influence on body image can also be negative. The researchers said the negative effects occurred when people compared themselves with others or began to be critical of themselves.

Only one participant reported that yoga was singularly bad for their body image. The others who reported negative effects also discussed its positive impact.

Neumark-Sztainer says the results of the study shed light on what yoga instructors and studios can do to help ensure that their students with body image issues have a positive experience.

These suggestions include language that encourages students to be grateful for their bodies, efforts to make sure yoga classes are filled with different kinds of bodies, and an awareness about how mirrors are situated and used in practice spaces.

Neumark-Sztainer is also exploring other ways yoga may affect body satisfaction and health. The University of Minnesota says she is currently doing a randomized trial to see if yoga can be used as an intervention to improve body satisfaction. She is also seeking funding to study the practice’s effects on mental health and stress.

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