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Strength and Focus

The focus that mind-body exercise requires seems to beget a strength that can go beyond the Pilates Reformer or the yoga mat. Indeed, results of a study published in Psychology of Women Quarterly back up the idea that yoga can make women feel better about their bodies.

The study compared women who practiced yoga regularly with those who did other forms of exercise. Women who hadn't done regular exercise for at least two years were also included.

In surveys, the women who practiced yoga expressed healthier attitudes toward their bodies and had fewer disordered eating behaviors.

Yoga students learn to tune in to their bodies as they move through the poses. That could emphasize the body's abilities, instead of its appearance, say the researchers.

"Through yoga, this study suggests that women may have intuitively discovered a way to buffer themselves against messages that tell them that only a thin and 'beautiful' body will lead to happiness and success," researcher Jennifer Daubenmier, PhD, of California's Preventive Medicine Research Institute, said in a news release.

If you're in search of a healthier body image, getting involved in a mind-body exercise may be worth a try. But just as you wouldn't attempt a full lotus during your first yoga class, don't expect to start loving your body right away, warns Sell.

Just like yoga, she says, transforming your body image should be seen in the context of a practice being perfected over a long period of time.

"Body image and all of its thoughts and complexities wasn't born overnight, it didn't get its stronghold in the psyche overnight, and it won't be dismantled overnight," she says.

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