Ever noticed how yogi’s seem to be so comfortable in their bodies, even in crazy fandangled shapes? Ever wondered how they tend to walk with more confidence, live with more courage, and just generally seem more abundant? This is not a trick of the light and it in no way happens overnight- but it IS real! And you can get there too!
Building a strong sense of self-love is vital in order to create any length of happiness in life. Lucky for us this is exactly where yoga begins; with the practice of Ahimsa. Non judgement and compassion for self and others.
Yoga teaches us first and foremost how to love what we already have. To notice our own abundance and feel no judgement when we fall down. To simply get back up and use the strengths we have to press onwards.
Consider something that you are seeking (on the mat, in your day, or in your life), and break it down into steps. Are there pieces of those steps that you are already nailing? This is a strength you hold and can feel confident in. You are abundant there. Start appreciating that piece and the transformation towards a pattern of self love will fall into place
Still unsure what we are talking about? Here are a few ways you can bring all this into your practice using specific shapes to help bring about a stronger sense of confidence.
Recognise your assets
Recognising your individual strengths on your mat is a wonderful launching place for doing the same off the mat- at work, at home, and in your relationships. Understanding where your body is at in this moment and honoring that will create a sense of peace.
Crescent Lunge & Pyramid Pose
You are perfect exactly as you are, we are simply all different. Some of us are stretchier, some of us are stronger. It doesn’t matter. But whatever is going on - own it. Use the assets you already have.
If you are more flexible, tuck into the stretch, if you are a powerhouse of strength- go there! Your yoga practice is about you, not your neighbor, or your cousin, or that instagram pic you saw.
Not sure which is juicier for you yet? Here is how to tell using Crescent Lunge and Pyramid Pose:
To acknowledge strength: Actively press your feet and thighs towards each other in the lunge. Witness your hips rising and squaring. Then exhale your navel into your spine and feel your ribs lift your entire torso upwards without backbending. In Pyramid you would maintain length and bow forward on straight legs, whereas Crescent Lunge you would keep the front knee bent and lift your torso and arms up to the sky.
To acknowledge flexibility: Instead of pressing your thighs towards each other, allow the split to get deeper in your legs. When you fold in Pyramid you might catch on of the legs and pull yourself deeper. Keep your torso long in either shape.
Once you are clear about whether your body loves strengthening or stretching you can thoroughly dig in to the sensation that your body is best at. Don’t forget to ignite the opposite action, balance is integral to life and health after all, but allow yourself a little indulgence in every shape so that you can feel more confident and delicious.
Grow in confidence
Slow the voice in your head and focus on a heart-led practice rather than a head-led practice. You are perfect exactly as you are. Start to differentiate between your body’s intuition, and the cricket on your shoulder telling you mistruths,. This is exactly like when we listen for an impending injury as we practice, and the difference between a stretching or strengthening sensation in a shape. Listen to your body’s ability to move and thrive by building on strong foundations. This encourages self trust which is at the heart of all confidence.
There’s nothing like a warrior shape to develop your self confidence. Growing from the ground up provides a strong firm foundation that is unwavering, and Warrior One is the perfect example of how this works. It all starts with the specificity of foot placement in order to properly square the hips. If you step to your hand from Down Dog you’re likely hips width distance when you rise up, it’ll feel strong and easy to exhale the navel in and lift the ribs and arms high.
Maintaining control of the flexed foot when lifting the back foot so as not to tilt the hips in Warrior Three is often swept to the side when first trying to balance in the shape. However, pausing to listen attentively in this transition will promote confidence in your lift, hold and exit of the shape. Pulling (or knitting) the ribs in towards your navel will help support the hip and provide a sense of strength as you press your chest forward and open, literally (but slowly) diving forward into flight mode.
Look for the sensation at the exact moment you tip forward from plank towards Chaturanga and identify what it is like when your elbows arrive over your wrists. Press the elbows firmly towards your ribs without connecting. Recognise where you are on your toes and in your shoulders in this part of the transition before lowering down. Moving forward can be scary - in Crow Pose with the floor right under your nose, yes, but more so in life. With strong foundations and a new sense of how to listen, transitions will start to be less intimidating.
Rather than focusing on lifting the leg or getting extravagant, focus on controlling the side body and leg muscles to bring the hips into alignment. Listen to your ribs pressing forward towards each other, and your shoulder blades pressing back towards each other without compromising the hip over hip alignment or tilting to face up. Use your knee or forearm on the ground to really feel the hip alignment and oblique engagement and how they interact with each other. Start to feel into the details of the shape before you lift off your knee or forearm and when you do step it up, notice how your alignment may begin to change when you lift a leg or look up- stay aligned!
Tune in to appreciation & abundance
Upward Facing Dog
This shape is such a sweet, heart and hip opener. Ground into the feet and hands to allow your body to hang like a hammock, open and soft, while your chest presses upwards. This shape is like basking in the sun. Allow yourself a moment every time you come into Up Dog to smile into everything you already have.
Basically an upside down version of the previous shape! Allowing your body to invert itself in Wild Thing is liberating for the mind, body and the breath. Inhale largely into this shape when you get there and appreciate every second of strength and openness it expresses for you.
Your yoga practice can be the perfect place to notice your strengths, grow self confidence, and to feel more grateful for everything your body is already capable of doing, having and attaining.
All it requires is a little less judgment and a lot more love.