A Case Study to Explore Women's Body Image Experiences Practicing Hot Yoga
Yoga is an embodying activity associated with positive body image; however, hot yoga may have differing impacts on body image and embodiment than traditional yoga, as several features of hot yoga differ from traditional yoga (e.g., heat, clothing worn, emphasis on fitness) and may influence women’s body image and practice of hot yoga. Using an exploratory case study approach, one hot yoga studio (Modo Yoga St. Catharines) was chosen for this study. The research questions pertaining to this case were: 1) In what ways is body image related to women’s practice of hot yoga? 2) What are women’s experiences practicing hot yoga at Modo Yoga studio St. Catharines? Ten women were recruited from the yoga studio and interviewed about their body image and experience practicing yoga at Modo Yoga. Four women, with differing experiences and body image, completed a follow-up interview to further clarify their experiences. Overall, it was found that women tended to emphasize the fitness aspects of hot yoga, which impacted their body image and undermined some benefits of yoga. However, there were also positive effects on body image and mental health as a result of the practice. Case-specific features, specifically related to the physical characteristics of the studio (e.g., large mirrors in the studio) and the social environment within the studio (i.e., instructor cues and other members) impacted women’s body image both positively and negatively. Further, some differences based on age and experience at the studio were also identified, with long-term members (6 months+) experiencing more psychological benefits (e.g., mindfulness, feeling less anxious, body acceptance, body responsiveness), with the physical challenges of hot yoga being an additional benefit. Overall, hot yoga had a complex impact on women’s body image and experience practicing hot yoga through a larger focus on the fitness elements of the practice.