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Posted 02/08/2022 in Category 1

Could yoga improve your relationship with yourself?

Could yoga improve your relationship with yourself?

In sport and exercise settings, many athletes are practising yoga to get the best from their sport performances and lengthen their sport careers. But could yoga also improve the most important relationship of all – your relationship with yourself. We know through all the research that yoga can help improve cardiovascular disease, arthritis, asthma, and depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder. But what exactly is yoga doing to the relationship we have with ourselves? 

There are several avenues to travel down here to answer this question. Although yoga classes in the West seem oriented towards fitness; yoga is traditionally about several components: breathing, physical postures, meditative components and ethics. This combination delineates clearly the connection of mind, body, and spirit of health and wellbeing. Ross and colleagues explored how yoga affects our relationship with ourselves through a qualitative study among 107 yoga practitioners. Using open-ended responses and in-depth interviews with some yoga practitioners (n=12), the researchers noted the following outcomes. Four themes emerged in the open-ended responses. The yoga practitioners related the ability of yoga to generate calm states, mindfulness, self-compassion, and a sense of connectedness. But what lies beneath these themes? What connects them? 

According to these yoga practitioners, yoga established positive intrapersonal changes which influenced interpersonal relationships. This finding means we develop good relations with ourselves, which improves our relations with others. Yoga works inwards (towards oneself) and then outwards (towards others). Ross and colleagues explained we improve the relationship with oneself through mindfulness and self-compassion and the relationship with others though compassion and social connectedness. These outcomes lead us towards greater health and well-being outcomes. 

The work we do on and with ourselves sends ripples through our community. The work we do to improve our lives multiplies; however, it’s often difficult to notice these changes immediately. Within psychology, we see researchers exploring social relationships and mindfulness, but often social relationships are about interpersonal relationships – our relationships with other people. The intrapersonal relationship – our relationship with ourselves – is a core element of mindfulness, as Ross and colleagues explain. 

But there appears to be more going on than what happens on the yoga mat, and that’s what is most exciting and illuminating. The work on the yoga mat is body, mind and spirit, not just body. It is what we do not see that is offering more than what we see. Peace with oneself, one’s family and one’s community emerges from self-compassion to compassion for others. Through repeated practice and reminders, we cultivate openness and a non-judgemental attitude towards ourselves and others. Another study among depressed women showed yoga served as a self-care and relational store to help the self and others. 

In summary, yoga can improve the relationship with yourself. Not only does this relationship improve but also the relations with others. What we see on the mat is the physical or body component, but it is also the mind and spirit component. This triumvirate works together long after one leaves the yoga mat. When we return to the yoga mat, we serve ourselves and others once again. It’s time to take time for you. This time is time immemorial – the best time you could spend that allows you to give back to yourself and to others. 


Ross, B. (2014). I am a nice person when I do yoga!!!: A qualitative analysis of how yoga affects relationships. Journal of Holistic Nursing, 32(2), 67–77. https://doi.org/10.1177/0898010113508466

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