The Psychology of Yoga

The Psychology of Yoga


What we do with our bodies actually affects how we think about ourselves but also how we think about others and the world and how we relate to them. So I thought by comparing yoga poses to power poses, we could actually get some new understanding of the mechanism that underlies the effects. So what power poses literature argues is that when we assume a dominant power pose we signal dominance, but we also signal it to ourselves. So these initial findings were actually of big interest to psychologists, but they’ve been questioned, they were not replicable. So I thought that actually the effects of body postures on psychological states might be real and here came my experience as an Iyenger yoga teacher. What I’m trying to propose is that when we assume yoga poses that lift our spine and open our chest so we can breathe to the full capacity of our lungs, we actually create a physiological feedback in our body that increases our subjective energy. Our study shows that just after 2 minutes of assuming yoga poses the state self-esteem increases, at least state-self esteem, so how we feel about ourselves in the present moment. We had research cubicles in which participants were randomly assigned either to perform two yoga poses or two power poses. So whether the power poses were high power poses or low power poses that didn’t matter for their feeling of empowerment or their subjective energy or their self-esteem what mattered was whether they were in yoga poses versus power poses. We would want to replicate those findings and we would want to extend them. There are many other studies on the effects of practising yoga that show that it is actually very helpful for people suffering from depression or anxiety. Obviously self-esteem is very closely related to depression. I think the results of this study point to the possibility of the intervention to tackle the mental health problems that we seem to be experiencing in an increased measure now.