In 1948, Marilyn Monroe posed for photographer Ed Cronenweth in a series of photos for Columbia Pictures. The caption on the back of the images read: “Look pretty, feel good. Marilyn Monroe who plays the ingenue lead in Columbia’s Ladies of the Chorus exercises her way to beauty and health.” They were published in various newspapers promoting the movie. The copy didn’t call them yoga poses, but Monroe was clearly performing yogic movements. Whether she realized she was doing them or not at the time is still unclear — and some calisthenics exercises, which we know Monroe did, seem inspired by yoga.
One 1956 report suggests Monroe discovered yoga later: “Marilyn Monroe’s latest kick is Yogi, not the philosophy, just the exercises. To improve her legs she says.” Some sources also report that Monroe studied with First Lady of Yoga Indra Devi, although nothing officially confirms that. Dangerous Minds, where we first saw the Monroe yoga photos, explains that “a popular photo of Indra Devi and Eva Gabor training together in 1960 [is] often mistaken for Monroe.”
But we do know Monroe was one of the first high-profile women to be open about her fitness routines and love of exercise. In a 1952 interview, she said she “couldn’t stand exercise if [she] had to feel regimented about it.”
See Monroe perform her best Dhanurasana, Paripurna Navasana, and other yoga poses in our gallery.