There exist whole swaths of liberal elites who use Yoga and spiritual "meditation" as ways to achieve enlightenment in the pursuit of selflessness. The traditional teaching says that such people will become more detached over time, becoming less concerned with material affairs as well as their self-image. A recent study in the journal Psychological Science says all of that is complete nonsense; in fact, the people who use Yoga/Meditation become more egotistical. Here's how Quartz reported the findings:
They recruited yoga 93 students and, over a period of 15 weeks, regularly evaluated their sense of self-enhancement. They used several measures to do this. First, they assessed participants’ level of self-enhancement by asking how they compared to the average yoga student in their class. (Comparisons to the average is the standard way of measuring self-enhancement.) Second, they had participants complete an inventory that assesses narcissistic tendencies, which asked participants to rate how deeply phrases like 'I will be well-known for the good deeds I will have done' applied to them. And finally, they administered a self-esteem scale asking participants whether statements like, 'At the moment, I have high self-esteem.'
When students were evaluated in the hour after their yoga class, they showed significantly higher self-enhancement, according to all three measures, than when they hadn’t done yoga in the previous 24 hours.
Another study recruited 162 people through Facebook groups focused on spiritual meditation. Here, participants were asked to evaluate themselves with statements like, "In comparison to the average participant of this study, I am free from bias."
Following meditation, participants reported a high sense of self-enhancement. Those who had not spiritually meditated in 24 hours showed no such shift in self-esteem.
"Researchers also evaluated participants’ well-being using two measures, the satisfaction with life scale and the eudemonic well-being measure," reports Quartz. "They found that well-being increased along with self-enhancement, suggesting that self-enhancement is linked with the increased sense of well-being that many get from meditation."
"Ego-quieting is a central element of yoga philosophy and Buddhism alike. That element, and its presumed implications, require serious rethinking," says the study. "Moreover, ego-quieting is often called upon to explain mind-body practices’ well-being benefits. In contrast, we observed that mind-body practices boost self-enhancement and this boost—in turn—elevates well-being."
To be entirely fair, academics have theorized for years that Westerners completely botch these practices in service of something self-centered. Writing for The Huffington Post, noted Buddhist Lewis Richmond says that such a practice can lead towards narcissism. "The act of sitting in silence, eyes closed or facing a wall, attention focused on the inner landscape of breath, body, and mental activity, could at least be characterized as self-absorbed," he says.