Written by Karl Perera, MA, DipLC
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Some claim that yoga is a very good technique to improve self-esteem. But are these claims true and how exactly does self-esteem improve with yoga? Which poses or asanas can help you build self-esteem and confidence?
On this page we will look at the research and hopefully try to answer some of these questions to make it clear to you, if you’re considering taking up yoga and hoping that it might improve your self-esteem.
Yoga is an effective tool for building self-esteem because it teaches awareness of the body, it relaxes us through the use of asanas, or yoga poses. Yoga is a combination of physical exercise and mindfulness training which reduces stress and improves mental and physical health and wellbeing.
According to Adriene, a yoga teacher with an excellent channel on YouTube, yoga helps you centre yourself and become much more aware of your body, your breathing and makes you feel much more confident. She also believes that this increasing awareness can enable you to start loving yourself and your body so much more. This can benefit you in terms of facing challenges in life and events which require confidence like dates and Job interviews.
A big part of yoga practice involves mindfulness and reflection on successes and a certain amount of gratitude. Yoga in this way combines physical exercise, stretching and mind training which can all contribute to your confidence.
In this way, yoga also has a similar effect to meditation because it relaxes you and reduces stress.
Try mindfulness meditation today and find out how it will help you achieve unstoppable confidence and higher self-esteem!
Does yoga improve self-esteem and confidence?
A study of 60 15-year-old girls into the effects of a yoga module sought to answer this question. The results showed that students who took the yoga module increased their self-esteem by about 9% and their concentration levels by about 10%. This also suggests that students taking yoga can also improve their academic attainment. Another conclusion of this research is that yoga is a useful tool in combating mental health issues in students (Sethi et al. 2013.)
My own personal experience of yoga is very limited, however I can confirm what the above results show. Many years ago whilst at university I took a short course of yoga lessons to aid with stress control prior to taking examinations. I did find my stress levels and my motivation increased. I am quite sure that this brief experience of yoga did help me to pass my exams in a much more calm way.
Yoga asanas and meditation have been shown to improve self-esteem in many studies including Telles et al. (1993).
Another reason why yoga may help improve self-esteem and confidence is that it involves physical exercise. It is well known that physical exercise can improve mental well-being, lower depression and promote positive feelings about one’s body. These positive feelings can result in higher levels of self-esteem.
I think that one of the main reasons why yoga is so helpful in improving self-esteem is connected with its benefits in terms of reducing stress. Low self-esteem is often a result of stress is caused by life’s challenges and if we can reduce the stress, we can reflect more clearly and focus on our successes rather than on our difficulties. In my own experience, when I am under stress I feel much less positive about myself and about my abilities than I do when I’m feeling relaxed and positive.
Anything that we can do to improve our attitude and think more positively can help us to feel more confident and this will naturally raise our self-esteem. There is nothing worse in life than focusing on the negatives, especially the negatives about ourselves or our own performance. In this way then yoga can be very helpful. As the effort involved in concentrating on the yoga diverts the mind from its usual concerns.
Which yoga asanas and techniques work best for self-esteem?
Bridges et al. (2007) carried out research testing eighth-grade students and used the Coopersmith self-esteem inventory. For eight weeks students were given a treatment of yoga and physical exercise, whilst a control group did not get the yoga module. The yoga component did make a considerable difference in levels of self-esteem for those who took part in the study. However, one important finding included that there was no difference between doing yoga and regular physical education in terms of level of self-esteem. I believe it is the aspect of physical exercise which actually benefits self-esteem rather than the actual yoga. However this is just an indication and that would have to be looked into in more depth to see if it was true.
There is some evidence that certain poses in yoga can increase self-esteem and so this next section will look at this topic. Golec de Zavala et al. (2017) found that Yoga poses increase inner energy and state self-esteem in comparison to ‘power poses’. This study also mentions that two of the most positive qualities of yoga are the focus on breathing and improvement in bodily awareness. The idea in this research is that body energy that yoga provides can contribute to an increase in self-confidence and self-esteem. An interesting point in this research was the discovery that positive effects of yoga can occur with just a two minute pose.
The yoga poses that are most effective involve standing for just two minutes with an erect spine and lifting the chest up. The reported effect is that the person doing these yoga poses feels a sense of energy and an increase in their self-esteem after just two minutes. This research is limited because only four yoga poses were tested. There are in fact a possible 840,000 yoga asanas, however very few are actually used in yoga practice.
Kovacic and Kovacic (2011), tested the effectiveness of relaxation sessions, which were added to physical activity in order to treat breast cancer in 32 patients. The results showed that the extra relaxation did improve feelings of low self-esteem significantly.
What are the main benefits of yoga?
Eggleston (2015) studied the benefits of yoga for children in schools. The results help us to understand how yoga can help children.
Some main benefits of yoga were found in the study to be an improvement in academic grades and an observation that the children seemed much happier psychologically after doing yoga consistently. Obesity seemed to decrease for the children that practised yoga. This study was carried out at Montessori elementary schools and also middle school levels of education.
Yoga is a form of mindfulness, and it’s this mindfulness training which seems to enable children to become more aware of their bodies. This seems to make them more relaxed and more open to learning in the class. Their health also seems to benefit in many ways as a result of the yoga training.
I have covered the topic of mindfulness elsewhere on this site, including the wonderful benefits of mindfulness meditation which I have tried many times with success. Personally, mindfulness relaxed me deeply and helped me to become aware of my behaviours and emotions, and to accept them without judgement. This is especially helpful for building self esteem because we tend to judge ourselves against very high standards and get upset when we stress about life. If we listen to our inner self without judging negatively, we can learn to respect our feelings more.
If you are interested in checking out the best way to build your self-esteem you can find it by clicking here:
Conclusion: How does yoga help with self-esteem?
It does seem that in my own experience stress has caused many negative feelings and gave me problems with my confidence and low self-esteem. Yoga is one way to improve positive feelings about one’s body and about oneself in general. Perhaps I should have tried yoga myself when I suffered from low self esteem all those years ago?
Yoga also involves a physical element, and it is well documented that physical exercise can aid depression, and can produce serotonin in the brain which gives us a much more positive attitude. This improved positive attitude can lead to benefits in terms of how we value ourselves. So self-worth and self-respect can also improve due to physical exercise. Yoga also involves an element of meditation and reflection which enable us to become much more self-aware and accepting of our emotions and feelings. This mindfulness training can really help us to increase life satisfaction and self-motivation, all components which can lead to a healthy a level of self-esteem.
Another Reason to Try Yoga
Often those who suffer from low self-esteem and, in extreme cases, depression, lack energy. This lack of energy can lead to negative feelings and a lack of motivation in life. The very fact that yoga improves wellbeing and positivity not only towards events that we face in life, but also as regards our own self, it is the foundation for a growing medium for more healthy self-esteem. Also, there are many claims that health is related to self-esteem so if somebody is suffering from poor health they may also suffer from low self-esteem and the opposite is also true.
Yoga is an example of technique that millions have benefitted from, which provides both mental and physical treatments of the mind and body as part of its process. Yoga therefore offers ways to achieve and maintain health and wellbeing which are helpful in developing the self esteem and confidence you need in life.
Yoga, then, does improve general health and well-being, so there is a connection between yoga, health and higher self-esteem. It’s my opinion that when we look at all the evidence, and especially if you have experience of doing yoga yourself, I’m sure that you would agree that there are huge advantages to try yoga and very few disadvantages, so go ahead and give it a try if you haven’t already, I’m sure you will benefit from it immensely!
Bridges, K. A., & Madlem, M. S. (2007). Yoga, Physical Education, and Self-Esteem. Californian Journal of Health Promotion, 5(2), 13-17.
Eggleston, B. (2015). The Benefits of Yoga for Children in Schools. International Journal of Health, Wellness & Society, 5(3).
Golec de Zavala, A., Lantos, D., & Bowden, D. (2017). Yoga poses increase subjective energy and state self-esteem in comparison to ‘power poses’. Frontiers in psychology, 8, 752.
Kovačič, T., & Kovačič, M. (2011). Impact of relaxation training according to Yoga In Daily Life® system on self-esteem after breast cancer surgery. The journal of alternative and complementary medicine, 17(12), 1157-1164.
Sethi, J. K., Nagendra, H. R., & Ganpat, T. S. (2013). Yoga improves attention and self-esteem in underprivileged girl student. Journal of education and health promotion, 2.
Telles, S., Singh, N., Bhardwaj, A. K., Kumar, A., & Balkrishna, A. (2013). Effect of yoga or physical exercise on physical, cognitive and emotional measures in children: a randomized controlled trial. Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Mental Health, 7(1), 1-16.
Website Author and Your Guide
Karl Perera is a fully qualified Life Coach (DipLC), Teacher (MA), and author of the book Self Esteem Secrets. He has taught at various universities including Durham, Leicester and Anglia Ruskin, Cambridge. He has run More-SelfEsteem.com since 1997 since suffering from low self esteem for more than 25 years overcoming it in his thirties.