It’s been decades since 50s pin-up icon Bettie Page posed for the pages of a magazine, but she’s just as popular as ever. She and Einstein tied at number 8 last year on Forbes’ list of highest-earning deceased celebrities, and her look is often emulated by pop stars (Katy Perry, anyone?) and everyday women alike. In “Bettie Page Reveals All,” the recently released documentary about her life (narrated by the pinup queen herself!), she mentions that she worked out three times a week but didn’t give specifics. Alas, there is no public record of the kind of exercise she did to stay in such amazing shape, but as a thoroughly obsessed Bettie fanatic, I’m convinced that yoga was her secret weapon, and the proof is in the photos that follow.
With the help of Kim Saunders, a yoga teacher and psychotherapist at Lift Yoga Therapy in Alpharetta, Georgia, we’ve designed a yoga practice inspired by Page’s confident, fun and sensual poses. Just be sure to grab a yoga mat and warm up with three rounds of Sun Salutation A first.
Page styled her own hair and makeup for her shoots and made many of her own costumes. In 2012, she appeared on Time’s list of the top 100 fashion icons.
2Yoga Pose: Revolved Big Toe Hold
Standing in Mountain pose (feet hip-width apart, arms at sides), bring your right knee up and hold it with both hands, keeping your left leg secure and solid. Then, with knee still bent, grab your right big toe with the first two fingers and thumb of your right hand. Standing upright and firmly balanced, extend your right leg straight out, and then bring your left hand to your right foot and extend your right arm up or out to the side. Hold there for three breaths, then release and repeat on the other side. Dive and flow through a Sun Salutation, ending in Downward Facing Dog.
3Queen of Curves
Pinup-model-turned-photographer Bunny Yeager took many of Page’s most famous photographs. Yeager died May 2014 at the age of 85. A book of her unreleased photos of Page, “Bettie Page: Queen of Curves,” comes out in September 2014.
4Yoga Pose: Pigeon
From Downward Facing Dog, extend your right leg high behind you into 3-Legged Dog, and then bring your right knee forward to rest near the right edge of your mat. Take your left leg straight back and level your hips. Hold for 15 breaths, then move through Downward Facing Dog and repeat on the other side. Take a quick rest in Child’s pose for five breaths.
The voluptuous Page was turned down by Ford modeling agency for being “too hip-y” and yet went on to become one of the most popular models of all time.
6Yoga Pose: Half Camel
From Child’s pose, come to Table pose before sitting back onto your heels. Place your hands behind you onto your heels and lift your hips so that thighs are perpendicular to the floor. Push hips forward and lift your ribs as you raise your right arm up and out salute-style and slightly arch the back. Hold for 5 breaths before coming back to Table pose. Repeat on other side. Then, while still in Table pose, take a quick stretch by alternating looking back at your right hip and then your left hip for several rounds each, allowing the hips to sway side to side as you go.
7Au Naturel Beauty
Page was very comfortable in her own skin and with nudity. “I want to be remembered as I was when I was young and in my golden times,” she told The Los Angeles Times in 2006. “I want to be remembered as a woman who changed people’s perspectives concerning nudity in its natural form.”
8Yoga Pose: Camel Variation
This is an advanced stretch, especially for the lower back, so move into this pose cautiously. From Table pose, bring your right foot forward between your hands for a knee-down lunge. Next, extend and straighten your right leg for a runner’s stretch, keeping your left thigh perpendicular to floor like in Camel pose. Take your hands to your hips to help yourself come up so that your upper body and left thigh are perpendicular to the floor. Lift your arms straight up, and then bend your left arm to place your left hand on the back of your head. Lift your upper body as you turn toward the right and reach your right hand up and then back toward your left heel.
Tip: Curling your left toes will make it easier to balance as you place your right hand on left heel. Hold for 3 breaths. Slowly and gently come out of the pose and back into Table before completing on the other side.
9All About the Bangs
Page was a standout student and college graduate—not common for women back then. She studied to be a teacher but scrapped that plan: “I couldn’t control my students, especially the boys,” she said. Amateur photographer and police officer Jerry Tibbs discovered Page walking on the beach, suggested she cut her bangs and model, and the rest is history.
10Yoga Pose: Reverse Plank
Come to a seated position with your knees bent and feet on the floor in front of you. Place your hands about 6 inches behind you, with wrists in line with your shoulders and fingers pointed toward your body. Lift your hips to come into Reverse Table, and then extend your feet forward and straighten your legs for Reverse Plank. Hold for five breaths and then have a seat. Lie on your back and hug your knees for Reclining Child. Hold for five breaths and release knees.
11Bend It Like Bettie
“She smiled with her whole body, and that’s something very few girls got,” says a photographer in “Bettie Page Reveals All,” the documentary about her life.
12Yoga Pose: Plow
Lie on your back with your knees bent and arms at your sides, palms down. Extend your legs straight up toward the ceiling, and then press into your arms and lift your hips to bring your feet behind your head. Your feet may touch ground or hover a few inches above it. Hold for five to 10 breaths. Come out of Plow and place your feet on the floor with knees bent. Lift and lower your hips five times in Flowing Bridge.
End with Savasana: Extend your legs out in front of you and let your arms rest at your sides. Lie there and relax for at least a few minutes, breathing slowly and deeply as you let any remaining tension melt away.