What makes Yoga practice (asana practice) different from practicing sport is that it involves meditation. As we go through the poses we meditate on the body and work towards finding peace and quiet in the mind. A wonderful quote I read somewhere says ‘we shouldn’t be contorting our bodies into weird shapes to get into poses, we should be using the poses to get into our bodies’. The additional mental dimension of Yoga can be used to reduce stress and anxiety and increase self confidence.
Curious about how it all works? Then please read on.
A quick note here: the suggestions mentioned below draw on my own experience, books I’ve read and things I’ve been taught. If you are experiencing a lot of anxiety and having self esteem issues do reach out to a trained professional who can help you with this. You don’t need to tackle all these feelings on your own 🙂
Start where you are today
I say this in all my classes: Yoga is a very individual practice. This setting of studios with 30 people is a modern phenomenon that started when Yoga was brought to the West. Before that, there was one teacher and one student.
Although it might sound like a cliche saying, we really are all unique: Our physical make-up. the length, breadth and shape of our muscles and bones as well as the individual experiences that make up our character are all going to be one of a kind. This is the first message you should be receiving when you start your Yoga practice. For your body, this is going to be a unique experience.
So please stop comparing yourself to your neighbours on the mats next to you!
Yoga is not a competition, there are no winners or losers at the end of a class. Well, actually, the winners are the ones who practice with the intention to treat their own body with loving kindness and respect.
When you begin your practice with the thought: ‘I’m starting where my mind and body is today’ you begin with acceptance; of yourself, as you are. No need for doubt, judgement or labels. That’s the first step towards confidence in yourself.
Be Curious About Yourself
Meditation is not necessarily the mere act of putting your thoughts on a cloud and allowing the mind to become silent. When we seek for the ‘gap’ of silence between our thoughts, we see that we are not defined by our thoughts. Thoughts are flashing, moving, changing, fleeting… The brain is a series of networks – connections. Some thoughts come back often, these we truly believe in – because those neural pathways have become sort of BIG Highways. Other thoughts can be new, strange, surprising – little pathways created by new triggers in our lives. \
Through meditation you can become aware of thought patterns you have that may be hurting your self-confidence. My general rule of thumb is: if it hurts, it’s not right. So next time you are practicing Yoga or meditating, see this as an opportunity to be curious about yourself. What are your ‘thought highways’ made up of and are these serving you, or do they hurt? Can you think of better neural pathways to go down instead?
In my own individual experience one of the most powerful tools Yoga gives us is the power of the Intention. Before you begin each practice, take a moment to think ‘what brings me to the mat today?’. For some this might be to de-stress from a busy day, to become more flexible, to become stronger physically. But what I mentioned earlier about the neural pathways comes back into play here. You can also set intentions which are messages for/to your brain – new ones – new patterns that can make you feel more confident and less anxious.
Keeping the same intention for each practice strengthens that intention each time, and also the neural pathway that is associated with it.
Right, if you keep thinking the same thing over and over again, you start to believe it is true. So setting an intention like ‘To love myself, believe in myself and let my true colours shine bright’ can create a BIG Highway in your brain that Loves You, Believes in You and is Self Confident in YOU.
Healthy Body = Happy Body
When you start doing any physical exercise; blood starts flowing, toxins are removed from the body, endorphins (happy hormones) are secreted. So simply put, just the physical motions of a Yoga practice will already start contributing towards a happier, healthier and more confident You.
The aforementioned meditation, intention and self observation practices can be practiced anywhere, any time, even off the mat. You can keep reminding yourself of these little things when you start to feel anxious or shy – be curious about yourself without judgement – where does this feeling come from, which thought patterns are connected to one another? Set Intentions for the things that you do that you would normally feel anxious about.
Drop me a comment with your thoughts, feedback, criticism…
I’m always happy to hear from you.
Love and Light,