Can people change – and if so, how much? How malleable are our personalities and feelings? Can yoga and meditation make us better people? How about for the ‘worst’ in society – can Eastern practices make sinners become saintly?

Many of us would like to change ourselves, to live happier and more fulfilling lives – to what an extent is this possible? The idea of personal transformation is an ancient one: it is central to both Western and Eastern spiritual traditions. Thousands of self-help books are published every year; there are hundreds of therapy techniques available, each carefully designed to help us change, including the increasingly popular approach of mindfulness-based cognitive therapy. Eastern techniques of yoga and meditation are widely practised, and part of their success revolves around the idea that if you practice them, you can become a different person – not just healthier or fitter, but a better person. To what an extent are these claims about personal change true? In this book, Miguel Farias and Catherine Wikholm break down and explore ideas about human potential for change, contrasting spiritual ideals with scientific evidence.