The study compared power poses to two yoga asanas and found the latter increased subjective feeling of energy, sense of power and self-esteem than those who performed power poses.
We live in a time when stress and pressure are two of the most dominant things people are afflicted with. Striving to be the best in one's careers and to be on top of everything despite intense competition is something that is burning out people more and more. New age entrepreneurs also espouse long hours of work. Stories of an Elon Musk jet setting from one place to another and sleeping only a few hours because of his work (be it myth or truth) are something that is looked at and lauded. On the other hand, the social pressure to look perfect and advertise one's life is something that has made 'perfect' the new normal. In such an age can we at all live a happy and content life far away from such demands? Well, a recent study says that doing just two or three yoga poses can increase one's subjective feeling of self-esteem, well-being and improve positive energy and increase happiness reports detecher.com. Who would have thought that the solution to your mental well being lay in only a few steps of this ancient form of exercise and meditation? While yoga is known the world over to bring in a sense of calm and is being practiced by millions in around the world, this is probably one of the few studies that test the effect of poses on one's subjective sense of well-being. The study was titled, Yoga Poses Increase Subjective Energy and State Self-Esteem in Comparison to ‘Power Poses.
Power poses versus asanas
The study conducted by theconversation.com compared yoga poses against power poses and used two groups of participants. One was asked to perform two simple yoga poses for two minutes, while the other group was asked to perform “power poses". The results showed that participants who performed yoga poses had an improved subjective feeling of energy, sense of power and self-esteem than those who performed power poses.
A fact that needs to be highlighted here is that while there is scientific proof about the effect of yoga on one's mental state, the concept of power posing and power poses is a controversial one in the field of psychology. The claims that by assuming a "powerful" posture, one can induce positive hormonal and behavioral changes and hence achieve mental well-being is something that is contested among the scientific community.
Two asanas a day keeps the doctor away
What is the reason for asanas having a positive effect on the mind? One of the theories is that yoga’s psychological benefits may be linked to the functioning of a part of the nervous system called the vagus nerves - the longest nerve in the nervous system. This is also responsible for the body’s unconscious functioning such as circulation, breathing, and digestion. It is also linked with things such as social competence and emotional regulation. The physical benefits of yoga are well known to all. The fact that merely doing asanas and yoga positions can also have a positive impact on a person mental health, is what the study tries to show.
So doing yoga equates to satisfaction with life, self-esteem, stress reduction, psychological well-being and performance anxiety reduction, the study states. This study conducted is different from all other researches about yoga in the sense that this only investigated the asana aspect of yoga to find its effect on self-esteem and individual well-being. All the other studies have mostly focused on the benefits of meditation and breathing.
A review of 465 studies on yoga have shown that 169 of them have focused on the physical aspects of asana and only two of them focus on the psychological effects of yoga poses. In this study on the other hand, a comparison of the effects of yoga poses namely - tadasana, urdhva hastasana, and garudasana yoga poses with two high power and two low power poses was done. They found that the participants performing yoga pose felt energized, empowered and in control than the other group.
Effects on the unconscious
Mental well being as a result of asanas could be because the effect had less to do with the dominance of poses, and more to do with the feedback that the poses provide a part of the brain which is responsible for body’s unconscious actions. Even though the higher power poses were more dominant, they were less responsive to improving the self-esteem of participants. There is a common mechanism that explains the dispersed effects of yoga practice: how vagus nerve functions to control the brain to the body.
The report says that our caring behavior is regulated by a part of the brain that controls this unconscious functioning. Hence it can be concluded that a 'well-functioning vagus nerve leads us to feel calm, relaxed, and safe in relation to others'. It, however, also goes both ways: feeling calm, relaxed and safe, also improves the vagus nerve. What this means is that we can start off on a positive journey of well-being by improving the state of our mind and then the body.