Can we really unlock our personal power by adopting “powerful” body postures? Unfortunately, the findings that link these so-called “power poses” beloved of certain politicians with a real sense of power and control are difficult to replicate. We may not yet understand the mechanism through which body postures influence our psychological states, but our recent study suggests that we may draw insights from the rapidly expanding research on the psychological benefits of yoga.
In our study, some participants performed two simple yoga poses for two minutes, while others performed “power poses” for two minutes. Afterwards, those who held the yoga poses reported improved subjective feelings of energy, sense of power, and self-esteem compared to the other group.
What could lie behind this apparent boost? One theory is that yoga’s psychological benefits may be linked to the functioning of the vagus nerve. This, the tenth cranial nerve, is the longest of the autonomic nervous system which is responsible for the body’s unconscious functioning such as breathing, circulation and digestion. But intriguingly its functioning is also directly linked to social competence and beneficial emotional regulation.
Yoga improves mental and physical health
Yoga is the practice of non-competitive, physical exercise involving held poses (in Sanskrit, asana) combined with regulated breathing (pranayama) and meditation techniques. The past few decades have seen a great increase in the practice of yoga in the West. Over 31m adults in the US have practised yoga at some point in their lives.
Multiple studies point to the positive effects of yoga on mental and physical health, as well as on personal development. Yoga alleviates chronic pain. It helps manage coronary artery disease, asthma, diabetes, lymphoma, and breast cancer. Yoga helps individuals suffering from mental health problems, such as depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, post traumatic stress disorder, and schizophrenia.
Regular yoga practice also benefits healthy individuals, improving psychological well-being, satisfaction with life, and self-esteem, and reducing stress and performance anxiety. Studies have also found that yoga reduces fatigue and negative affect, while increasing positive affect and giving a feeling of being energised.
Yoga poses and self-esteem
Our study was unusual compared to others examining the effects of yoga practice in that it examined only the asana aspect of yoga in order to investigate its effect on self-esteem. Predominantly, research into yoga has focused on the benefits of meditation and breathing. A recent review of 465 research papers devoted to yoga’s role in promoting well-being noted that only 169 of those papers included the physical aspects of asana. To the best of our knowledge, only two previous studies have focused solely on studying the psychological effects of yoga poses.
We compared the effect of the tadasana, urdhva hastasana and garudasana yoga poses to two “high power” and two “low power” power poses. We found that after performing two yoga poses our participants felt more energetic, empowered, and in control than those participants who performed power poses. Feeling energetic directly affected their confidence and feeling of satisfaction with themselves regardless of their initial levels of self-esteem.
We think such effects had less to do with the meaning of dominance associated with the poses, and more with the feedback that the body alignment in yoga poses provides to the parasympathetic nervous system – the part responsible for regulating the body’s unconscious actions. The high power poses were seen as more dominant and confident than yoga poses, but were less effective in increasing participants’ self-esteem.
So if it wasn’t the non-verbal meaning conveyed by the body postures that affected our participants’ self-perception, what was it? We can’t answer this directly, but its effect can be interpreted in light of the existing literature.
How do yoga poses affect the body?
The dispersed effects of yoga practice can all be linked to a common mechanism: the functioning of the vagus nerve which connects the brain (and therefore the mind) to the body. From the brain stem, the vagus nerve connects facial muscles, heart, lungs, digestive tract, kidneys and reproductive organs. It plays a key role in operating the parasympathetic nervous system which includes the feed-and-breed and rest-and-digest processes, and also regulates heart rate, and promotes calm and soothing states. The nerve is responsible for the neural regulation of parts of the body necessary for communication: the larynx, the eyes, the inner ears (particularly helping to distinguish human voices from background noises), and facial muscles involved in vocal and non-vocal expressions.
It also regulates our caring behaviour, hence why a well-functioning vagus nerve leads us to feel calm, relaxed and safe in relation to others. This is also reciprocal: feeling calm, relaxed and sociable also stimulates the vagus nerve. This means it’s possible to start off a positive upward spiral of well-being either by affecting the states of the body or the states of the mind.
Research suggests that the proper functioning of the vagus nerve (assessed as the “cardiac vagal tone” indicating the degree of the vagus nerve’s influence on the heart) promotes emotion regulation, social competence, and prosocial behaviour, and dampens aggression, hostility, depression and anxiety. This supports our theory that yoga practice – meditation, breathing, and performing yoga postures – tones the vagal nerve. Our findings suggest that even a short practice of yoga poses may positively affect the vagal tone, making us feel more satisfied and happy.
About The Author
Agnieszka Golec de Zavala, Senior Lecturer in Psychology, Goldsmiths, University of London and Dorottya Lantos, Doctoral Candidate in Psychology, Goldsmiths, University of London
- Walking Stick Press
Brand: Walking Stick Press
Studio: Walking Stick Press
Label: Walking Stick Press
Publisher: Walking Stick Press
Manufacturer: Walking Stick Press
- Samantha Stutzman
Studio: Get Creative 6
Label: Get Creative 6
Publisher: Get Creative 6
Manufacturer: Get Creative 6
Yoga instructor, licensed massage therapist, and anatomy teacher Kelly Solloway provides an entertaining and informative journey through the human body, focusing on the bones, joints, and muscles used in yoga. After an overview of helpful terms, Kelly covers the skeletal system, joints, and connective tissue, followed by the muscular system. Each anatomical feature is illustrated with a beautiful black-and-white drawing of a yoga posture, or asana, to color. Coloring the bones and muscles, and their names, will help you to remember their location and function, and 32 perforated flash cards enable readers to quiz themselves and study yoga anatomy on the go.
Yoga: The Top 100 Best Yoga Poses: Relieve Stress, Increase Flexibility, and Gain Strength (Yoga Postures Poses Exercises Techniques and Guide For Healing Stretching Strengthening and Stress Relief)
Studio: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
Label: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
Manufacturer: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
Whether you want to (1) increase your strength and flexibility (2) relieve pain and prevent injury, or (3) reduce stress and become happier, then keep reading to discover how to easily do this with the best yoga positions of all time!
Enjoy beautiful pictures of all the major yoga poses.
Yoga is well known for increasing flexibility, but it goes far beyond giving your muscles a good stretch. This form of exercise can be as intense as you want to make it! At the same time it is extremely easy to begin and it fits smoothly into any lifestyle. If you only have ten minutes to spare, that’s all it will take to reap many benefits from yoga. Then be sure to enjoy the many pictures and descriptions throughout the book showing the proper techniques. The purpose of yoga is to enhance both your physical well-being and your mental alertness. Yoga is an effective workout strategy practiced by people all over the world. Anyone can practice yoga; keep reading to discover what yoga can do for you.
Explore All The Glorious Good Stored Up In Your Body!
A yoga routine can bring out all the wonderful healing energy you have inside you. Yoga can develop strong and durable bones, muscles, joints, and ligaments. You’ll no longer worry about your body deteriorating as you age. Through yoga, you can protect your heart, strengthen your posture, maintain a healthy weight, boost your circulation, ease chronic pain, strengthen your immune system, delay signs of aging, improve coordination and balance, boost your energy, and much more! Yoga can even improve your sex life!
Do you want to boost your mood, beat depression, relieve anxiety, improve your concentration, sharpen your memory, or increase your self-esteem? There’s a yoga pose for that! Several, in fact. Does an injury prevent you from enjoying certain activities? No worries. With yoga, most of these poses are easily modifiable to accommodate physical limitations. Where they aren’t, this book lets you know so you can avoid any risk of further injury.
Make The Most Of Yoga Time
Whether you’re a working professional, a busy parent, an overwhelmed student, or anyone else for that matter, you can enjoy the amazing benefits of yoga. It makes no difference whether you have only ten minutes to spare or you’re blessed with five free hours a day. Yoga can easily fit into any lifestyle.
In this book, you will learn how to make the most of your yoga time. You’ll also find a practical approach to integrating a personalized yoga routine into your life. Explore the many ways to create the perfect environment for your yoga activities, along with step-by-step instructions to ease you into a regular yoga practice. Be sure to explore the many positions and benefits of yoga and start feeling great!
What Will You Discover About Yoga?
- Beautiful photos of each major yoga pose.
- Great breathing techniques that can enhance your health and boost the effectiveness of your yoga practice.
- Practical modifications for specific injuries and physical restrictions.
- How yoga can benefit your overall health.
- How to warm up properly beforehand.
You Will Also Learn:
- How yoga can increase your awareness of – and appreciation for – your own body.
- How to design your own yoga routine around your specific needs and your personal lifestyle.
- Which poses to use to enhance specific parts of your body.
- 100 of the best yoga positions of all time, with clear, step-by-step instructions.
Unleash yoga’s rejuvenating power into your life: Get this book now!