Anyone who has ever encountered a holier-than-thou yoga practitioner will not be surprised by the findings of a new study that found regular yoga and meditation practitioners experience a surge in ego just after a session.
Quartz is reporting on the study, entitled “Mind-body practices and the self: yoga and meditation do not quiet the ego, but instead boost self-enhancement,” which is soon to be published in the journal, Psychological Science.
The two-part study was conducted by researchers in Germany and England and measured self-enhancement by recruiting 93 yoga students who were asked to respond to questionnaires over the course of 15 weeks. These assessments were designed to measure three outcomes: superiority, communal narcissism (people who are obsessed with promoting their commitment to others), and self-esteem.
The results found that when students were evaluated an hour after their yoga class, they showed significantly higher self-enhancement, according to all three measures, than when they hadn’t done yoga in the previous 24 hours.
The second part of the study involved 162 meditation students who were asked to answer the same questionnaires over the course of four weeks.
The study found that participants had higher self-enhancement in the hour following meditation than when they hadn’t meditated for 24 hours.
These findings are significant because they suggest that Buddhist and Hindu spiritual practices such as yoga and meditation don’t do what proponents typically say they do.
“Ego-quieting is a central element of yoga philosophy and Buddhism alike. That element, and its presumed implications, require serious rethinking,” the study authors write. “Moreover, ego-quieting is often called upon to explain mind-body practices’ well-being benefits. In contrast, we observed that mind-body practices boost self-enhancement and this boost—in turn—elevates well-being.”
“It might not be all bad, though,” writes Hannah McDonald for Mental Floss. “Self-enhancement tends to correlate with higher levels of subjective well-being, at least in the short term. People prone to self-enhancement report feeling happier than the average person. However, they’re also more likely to exhibit social behaviors (like bragging or condescending) that are detrimental in the long term.”
She concludes: “So if you think your yoga-loving friends are a little holier than thou, you may be right. But it might be because their yoga class isn’t deflating their egos like yogis say it should.”
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