Tuesday, May 24, 2011

How Can I Improve My Confidence with Yoga?

By Dr. Paul Jerard, E-RYT 500

Confidence is defined as the state of feeling certain about the truth of something. When a person is self-confident, he or she appears calm and at peace, and trusts his or her own decision-making ability, allowing one to deal with stressful situations and difficult interactions. Confidence is a self-fulfilling prophecy: The more confidence one has, the more confident one feels.

Self-confidence and self-esteem are closely linked; and according to the “Harvard Mental Health Letter,” from Harvard Medical School, there is “convincing evidence that people with high self-esteem are happier, as well as more likely to undertake difficult tasks and persevere in the face of failure.” Dr. Michael Miller, Editor in Chief of the publication, has stated that “…self-esteem will come as a result of accurate self-understanding, appreciation of one’s genuine skills, and the satisfaction of helping others.”

Yoga provides an excellent outlet for gaining self-understanding and life skills. Regular Yoga practice gives students many increased physical capabilities and a calmer mental state. The benefits of Yoga are available to anyone who allows time to enjoy them. For Yoga teachers: Sharing some confidence-building asanas with one’s students will inspire them and help them to feel better immediately.

Here are three Yoga asanas to improve self-confidence:

1) Vrksasana, or Tree pose. Balance poses provide a challenge that can be adjusted to every skill level. Students build skill by bringing the foot higher and higher up the leg, or by closing the eyes, or bringing the arms overhead. The totality of balancing should banish negative thoughts and allow the practitioner to experience clarity of attention.

2) Ardha Chandrasana, or Half-moon pose. This side stretch and balancing pose literally opens up the body to the room, and gives students practice with feeling self-confident, while holding an open posture. The pose can be done against a wall or with a block if the student feels unstable.

3) Virabhadrasana I, or Warrior 1. Standing poses also inspire self-confidence, and this pose is named after an incarnation of Shiva. Standing tall, and feeling muscles at the ready, should help practitioners feel assured in the physical self.

After practice, reviewing the bodily sensations experienced during the different movements can be productive. For those of us who struggle with self-image, we may feel uncomfortable during poses that draw attention to our midsections or areas we might regard as less attractive.

Unlike many forms of exercise, Yoga is not focused on improving appearance. Practitioners enjoy a healthier body and appearance, of course, but the major benefits of Yoga practice relate to internal, rather than external changes. This can be a new and constructive change for practitioners.

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