Santa Lucia - Neurosciences and Rehabilitation Sapienza University of Rome

J Altern Complement Med. 2017 Mar;23(3):227-233. doi: 10.1089/acm.2016.0169. Epub 2016 Nov 17.

Interactions Between Body and Social Awareness in Yoga

BACKGROUND/OBJECTIVE: Bodily processes have been intimately linked to social-cognitive and affective functions, such as compassion and empathy. Yet, little is known about how awareness of bodily processes influences social awareness and vice versa, especially in nonobservational but experiential investigations. This study investigated the relationship between psychometrically reported body and social awareness (including altruism, empathy, perspective-taking, and compassion) in 90 yoga and yoga-/mediation-naive control participants. In modern postural yoga, advanced practitioners claim both increased compassion and inner focus.

METHODS: Multiple regression analyses were conducted to predict (1) the level of yoga practice from body awareness and social awareness skills in the yoga group and (2) body awareness from social skills in both groups.

RESULTS: Body awareness and compassion were significant positive and independent predictors of yoga expertise. This finding supports practitioners' anecdotal claims but also implies that both functions tap into different aspects of yoga expertise. When body awareness was predicted, altruism emerged as a significant negative predictor in the yoga group (but not control group) as a function of yoga practice.

CONCLUSION: These results might compellingly suggest that, despite high compassion, heightened bodily self-awareness might increase a self-centred perspective and limit altruistic acts in advanced yoga practitioners.

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