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What are the positive effects of yoga in the context of personality development?
When people consider the subject of personality, they often consider it as something that is fixed and unchanging. This is because they believe that people are born with a certain personality that cannot be altered in any way.
However, the psychological definition of personality consists of five mutable traits. These traits are all spectra that people move along as they progress through life.
However, there are also many tools that can help someone make positive shifts on these spectra. Yoga is one such practice. In this article, you will learn about the five facets of personality and how yoga can positively affect all of them.
Before discussing yoga’s effects on personality, we need to define what personality is. In psychology, personality is composed of five traits, with each trait representing a range between two extremes. Each trait is a spectrum, with neither pole being good or bad.
The five big traits of personality are openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism.
- Openness: This trait measures a person’s ability to adapt to life’s changes and think abstractly. Those who are high in this trait are creative, imaginative, and easily come up with unique ideas. They are adventurous and embrace change easily.
- Conscientiousness: This trait measures how thoughtful or mindful a person is. People who are high in this trait often plan ahead and have good impulse control. Furthermore, these people are aware of how their actions affect others and understand how their behaviors and actions help or prevent them from reaching their goals.
- Extraversion: This trait measures the sociability and emotional expressiveness of a person. People high in this trait enjoy interacting with people and are outgoing. Being around people brings them energy and joy.
- Agreeableness: This trait measures how kind, trustworthy, or altruistic a person is. People high in this trait get along well with people and exhibit a great deal of empathy and warmth towards others.
- Neuroticism: This trait measures the emotional stability of a person. Those who are high in this trait easily experience mood swings and are quick to become irritable, sad, or distressed.
How Personality Traits Make Up What We Are
All of these traits are a spectrum, and neither extreme can be labeled good or bad. These are just qualities that make up who we are.
However, we are not born stuck a certain way. Everyone can make conscious efforts to move towards one extreme or the other. For example, if you want to be more extroverted, you can make a conscious effort to be more sociable and interact with others more often. Moreover, if you want to be more agreeable, then you can make conscious efforts to be kinder and more empathetic.
Though it is unlikely that you will completely swing from one pole to the other, with some effort, you can positively shift your personality traits.
Yoga is the perfect tool to make positive changes to your personality. Both the mind and the body benefit from yoga, which leads to a calmer mind and healthier interactions with others.
There are two components of yoga that benefit personality traits. They are:
- Mindfulness: This practice helps people pay attention to their automatic thoughts about themselves, certain situations, or the people around them. Mindfulness also assists in identifying thoughts and behaviors that do not serve them.
- Calming the body and mind: The physical stretches and poses of yoga bring both the mind and body into balance. This allows people to live with more ease and not at the whim of programmed emotions and thoughts.
Now let’s go through each personality trait and see how yoga can bring positive changes to each one.
Those who are not open dismiss new ideas and struggle with imagination. Abstract ideas are difficult to process, and changes are often rejected.
If you struggle with this, yoga can help you be more open through mindfulness. By mindfully looking at your thoughts, you can identify why you resist certain ideas and changes. Do they frighten you? Do you feel threatened by change? Or do they remind you of something from your childhood or someone you dislike? With mindfulness, you can get to the core of your resistance and learn to ease up and accept new ideas.
Furthermore, the very act of yoga helps to open up the body. This allows new energy to flow through you, keeping you an open vessel. When your body is open and relaxed, your mind is as well. This new openness will encourage you to try out new things, such as skills, adventures, or ideas.
Those who are low in conscientiousness often do not take accountability for their actions or fail to see how they affect the people around them.
Through the practice of mindfulness in yoga, you will gain the ability to pay attention to your behaviors and their repercussions. Mindfulness will also help you empathize and connect with others, which makes it easier to see how your words and actions affect them.
The practices of yoga and mediation aim to give you a deeper connection to the people around you. Furthermore, you learn to open your heart and gain empathy for your friends and family.
If you are very introverted or live with social anxiety, yoga may help you ease your anxiousness or help you come out of your shell. Though spending time alone may still energize you, socializing will not be as draining or nerve-wracking. In fact, your deeper connections may be more energizing and fulfilling than before, encouraging you to socialize.
Certain yoga and meditation practices aim to deepen your connection with humanity. They teach you the core of how to be loving, forgiving, and empathetic, deepening your relationships and making you more enjoyable to be around.
Furthermore, yoga helps to soften the harsher sides of our personalities, such as distrust, competitiveness, and bitterness. Those who practice yoga often develop a great sense of empathy, making them more trusting, cooperative, kind, and altruistic.
Both the poses of yoga and the practice of mindfulness are known to ease various emotional and mental health conditions, such as depression, anxiety, or chronic stress. People who practice yoga find themselves much calmer and more grounded, which results in more emotional stability.
Furthermore, mindfulness helps them observe and work through their negative thoughts. Negative thoughts and self-talk are often at the core of painful emotions and mental illnesses. With these thoughts eased and healed, peace and stability are restored. Hence, yoga helps in the development of personality at physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual levels.
Being anywhere on these spectra does not necessarily mean that you are either a good or bad person. These traits make up who you are. However, if there are certain traits you want to work on, then yoga may be able to assist. Through mindfulness, healing stretches and poses, and an overall calming effect on the body, yoga can help you become more open, conscientious, sociable, agreeable, and emotionally stable.
Marie Miguel has been a writing and research expert for nearly a decade, covering a variety of health-related topics. Currently, she is contributing to the expansion and growth of a free online mental health resource with BetterHelp.com. With an interest and dedication to addressing stigmas associated with mental health, she continues to specifically target subjects related to anxiety and depression.