Discipline is a personality trait that is tested in yoga. I came across a really interesting study that proved how making a physical gesture could help in keeping on track with your goal. The study put a plate of junk food in front of people who planned on losing weight. When they tightened their fist while seeing the fatty food, they were more likely to resist the food.
Tightening the fist is actually an ancient yoga mudra. What is a yoga mudra? This is the hand position while you meditate and the word means “a seal" in Sanskrit. Different hand gestures have different meanings and serves as an expression of the intentions of the mind. Tightening the fist as done in the scientific study is a yoga mudra called adhi mudra. Adhi means “primordial” in sanskrit and is said to instill a deep sense of grounding. To do the adhi mudra fist, the thumb is folded into the palm, touching the base of the small finger. The rest of the fingers are folded over the thumb, creating a fist. This mudra activates the pectoral muscles, making the chest expand forward on inhalation, which can create a sense of empowerment.
It is interesting how yoga practice instills discipline and also mindfulness. Being mindful is about paying attention to the present moment. However, to prevent “living for the moment” at the expense of the future, we can bypass temptation by tightening our fist when we see the self-control dilemma.
Here is the abstract of the scientific study:
Across five studies, we show that firming one's muscles can help firm willpower and that firmed willpower mediates one's ability to withstand immediate pain, overcome food temptation, consume unpleasant medicines, and attend to immediately disturbing but essential information, provided that doing so is seen as providing long-term benefits. We draw on theories of embodied cognition to explain our results, and we add to that literature by showing for the first time that one’s body can help firm willpower and facilitate the self-regulation essential for the attainment of long-term goals.
Firm Muscles to Firm Willpower: Understanding the Role of Embodied Cognition in Self-Regulation. Iris W. Hung, Aparna A. Labroo.
Journal of Consumer Research Apr 2011, 37 (6) 1046-1064; DOI: 10.1086/657240