Strike a pose

Why the image-focused fashion industry is so inclined toward inward-looking yoga.

It's been the summer of the supermodel yoga selfie – from Gisele posting a picture “practicing yoga with my little partner (a.k.a. baby daughter Vivian) before going to work,” to Naomi Campbell wowing the twittersphere with her wheel pose, demonstrated in a bikini on the bow of a yacht in Ibiza.

But the connection between the fashion industry and yoga is longstanding. For Donna Karan, now 64 and a dedicated yogi since age 18, it's inextricably linked to her identity as a designer. “You know that bodysuit I built my line on?” she explained while giving a speech earlier this year, “That was about me being able to go directly from work to yoga class. It just wasn’t accepted to talk about then.”

In the years since, designers from DVF to models like Christy Turlington have established a deep-rooted and well-documented relationship with the practice. But why yoga and not, say, cycling? Or swimming?

That an image-obsessed industry would gravitate towards the long and lean yoga physique is not surprising. Given the social nature of the fashion biz, it also follows that editors, models and designers might occasionally be looking to release a toxin or two. Sarah Hay, iD Magazine’s Paris editor, recently went to her first Bikram class after a model friend told her “You feel like you’re going to puke, but it’s worth it. You sweat out all the impurities in your body.”

But if anything, it’s the spiritual side of the practice that’s at the heart of the synergistic relationship between fashion and yoga. There's great appeal in the chance to be in the moment instead of constantly looking ahead to what’s going to be hot next season. “Yoga is an escape from the fast-paced lifestyle and the never-ending cycle of seasonal collections,” says Robyn Berkley, a fashion PR who took a sojourn to study for her yoga teacher training in Bali and will launch her own line of yoga apparel, Process, this fall.

Former model turned yoga instructor Tara Stiles also thinks yoga helps younger models with body image issues. “It keeps you normal. As a model you’re constantly judged on how you look, which is something you actually have very little control over. Yoga helps you feel happier and more confident in your body.” Plus, on a practical note, “you travel a lot and it’s something you can take anywhere,” she explains, before pointing out the perks of the stretchy clothes that are synonymous with the practice. “They're such a comfy alternative to the restrictive samples you spend your life being squeezed into!”

Perhaps best of all, yoga encourages a mindfulness and a healthy internal dialogue about what’s best for your body. “You’re more likely to see a model turn up on a shoot with a green juice than a Red Bull these days,” says Stiles. Tucked into a designer handbag, of course.