It’s 3:30pm on Thursday and I’m about to teach my yoga class. Something is gripping me this day, holding me down and I even find it difficult to look at people directly for conversation. My confidence is down. I’m filled with doubt, a bit of confusion, and worry. The thought, “I’m not good enough, that other teacher is so much better at it than I,” pulses through my mind. It overtakes my body and I notice my shoulders rounding forward, eyes lowering down, and my breath getting shallow. “Do some yoga,” is the next thing I hear inside, “you haven’t practised today.” Realising I have some time before my class begins, I do some asanas.
Connected to Source, connected to Self
As a fulltime yoga and meditation teacher, practice is essential to my life as I teach directly from my own experiences, on and off the mat. Practice is also essential to me remaining connected to Source, and if I don’t get enough time in my day or week for some asanas, something in me is off and doubts begin to arise.
Asana and meditation are the quickest methods to return me to self awareness, knowledge, fullness and confidence. When I don’t practise regularly, I can lose the thread of connection to Source, leading me to question my thoughts, plans, ideas, dreams and even to spiral deep into the place of doubting my skills as a teacher. Doubt is a tricky beast and robs us almost entirely of the natural confidence that comes from being in touch with Self and how that Self wants expression in the world.
Take time to appreciate yourself
Sometimes this doubt sprouts from getting on the comparison train, fuelled by too much time on social media streams that offer us the tiniest slivers of information into the lives of others. Unplugging for one, two or three days is one way to recognise the strength of your own life, regain footing into your personal mission, and reactivate your ability to stand tall in who you are. Other methods work too: meditation, journaling, returning to an art form like painting, walking in nature, dancing wild and free and a good old fashioned conversation with a trusted friend.
Asana and meditation are the quickest methods to return me to self awareness, knowledge, fullness and confidence
In the yoga, health and wellness circles, we’re all told to “love yourself first”, but if finding the self love is challenging, embrace this vulnerable moment and ask a friend, colleague, or student to remind you what is excellent about you and the way you walk through the world uniquely as an expression of beauty and grace. Then, write down what they say in your journal to re-read, or create art out of the words for your altar. We are mirror reflections of each other, so being in good company can be the best medicine to dissolve the temporary veil on your heart.
Yoga to improve self-confidence
Yoga asana, meditation and surrounding myself with amazing people always bring me back to feeling grounded in who I am and what I am doing, where self doubt cannot sprout further fear. Here is a trusted sequence to regain presence in your Self and feel confident being there.
What you’ll need: yoga mat, two blocks, two blankets.
Tadasana is a pose of honesty, vulnerability, and strength as you stand firm, with eyes open to see and be seen, fully.
- Stand with your feet parallel and hip-width apart. Allow your arms to rest by your sides.
- Firm your legs without tension, and begin to breathe ujjayi breath. Allow each inhale to lift and expand the ribcage, and fill fully with the remembrance of your unique gifts and talents.
- Let each exhale be a full acceptance of yourself, softening your body.
- Remain for 5 – 8 breaths.
2. Urdhva Hastasana to Crescents
- Keep your legs strong and, on an inhale, stretch your arms up.
- Root from your pelvis through your legs to the floor and commit to staying strong in yourself, for yourself.
- With the right hand, hold the left wrist and take a side bend to the right, making a crescent shape.
- Keep the pelvis over the heels and root stronger from the pelvis through the legs to the floor, allowing a greater expansion of the left side body.
- Do the same on the other side.
- Repeat 2 – 3 times.
3. Prasarita Padotanasana
- Bring your hands to your hips and take a wide stance, feet about one leg-length apart.
- Turn the feet parallel and firm your legs without tension.
- Ground from the pelvis to the legs as you inhale to fill again with the remembrance of your highest Self. Here, take 2 – 3 breaths.
- Keep the legs firm and on an exhale, extend your spine long and bow forward, touching the floor or blocks.
- Align the pelvis over the heels, and spread your toes to activate the muscles in your legs drawing up, activating a feeling of strength.
- On an inhale, sweep your sitting bones back to extend your legs straighter, and on an exhale, press strong through your legs, extend the spine, and bow the heart forward with a focus on keeping the head in line with your arms.
- Hold for 3 – 5 breaths. Bring the hands to hips and, on an inhale, come up to stand.
- Prepare a blanket roll for under your heels.
- Keep your feet about mat-width apart, turn them out slightly, and place the blanket roll under your heels.
- Spread the toes so the legs are strong and bend the knees coming to a squat shaped position.
- Lengthen from your lumbar spine up to lift the chest, folding the palms in front of the heart.
- Continue to let the pelvis move down to the floor as you inhale deeply to lift the chest.
- Remain for 2 – 3 breaths.
- Come down to table top position, where the hands are lined up outer-shoulder distance apart and the creases of the wrist are straight across.
- Walk the knees back just past the line of your hips and tuck your toes under.
- Remain steady with your breath, and begin to move naturally at first, allowing hips to sway in circles, or moving into child’s pose. Return to a steady table top position.
- With your inhales, fill fully through the torso lifting the heart forward and up, allowing the lower back to arch and the spine to soften toward the floor [the “cow” position].
- Exhale and draw the spine to the sky, lengthening the tailbone down, and rounding the back [the “cat” position]. Let each inhale fill with remembrance, and let each exhale turn in with affirmation.
- Repeat for 5 – 8 breaths.
6. Wide low lunge with a twist
- From a table top position, step your right foot forward outside the right hand in a low lunge position.
- Let your right foot turn out 10 degrees or so, and allow your knee to align over the middle of the foot.
- Keep the back foot’s toes tucked under and firm your legs by drawing from your feet up into the pelvis.
- Keeping your legs strong, allow the pelvis to release forward and bend the front knee.
- Remain up on fingertips or blocks to allow deep inhales and exhales to lift the heart.
- Keep the legs stable and the right knee aligned, and on an inhale reach your right arm to the sky, opening the right side body in a twist.
- Extend from pelvis to legs and with each inhale, lift the heart higher. With each exhale, create length in the twist. Repeat inhaling to lengthen and exhaling to twist 3 – 5 breaths.
Inhale to exit the twist, return to table top, and change legs.
7. Ekapada Rajakapotasana or Pigeon Pose [with preparation and quad stretch]
- Begin in table top position and slide your right knee forward and wide, aligned outside your right wrist.
- Allow the right foot and shin to come up away from the pelvis as much as is comfortable, extending your left leg straight back from the pelvis.
- Come down onto forearms, adjust so the pelvis is parallel to the floor and your weight is evenly spread on both legs.
- Tuck the left foot toes under, and begin to strengthen your legs by drawing from your feet through the legs to the pelvis, as if you were keeping your knees together. Stay on forearms with your head aligned.
- With every inhale, lengthen the torso, bringing the heart more forward. With every exhale, release the pelvis and legs down and back.
- For extra support you can place a blanket horizontally under the front of the pelvis so it supports both legs. Remain in this pose for 3 – 5 breaths.
- Remain steady in the legs, and begin to come up vertical in the spine. Use blocks under each hand to give you more length if needed.
- When upright, bend your left knee and, with the left hand, hold the top of the left foot and draw it in toward the outer edge of your pelvis for a quad stretch. Draw your knees toward midline and toward the pelvis, and lift up while you pull the left foot in.
- Keep the right hand on a block if needed to maintain length of the torso, and presence with deep breath for this intense stretch. Remain in this pose for 2 – 3 breaths. Repeat with left leg forward.
- Hero’s pose can be supported with one or two blankets folded, placed just under the pelvis.
- Stand on your knees with your thighs parallel to each other, and feet lined up wider than your pelvis. Place the blankets between your heels, not between your knees.
- Spread your toes, activate your legs, and sit down on the blankets. If there is pain or discomfort in the knees, try a higher prop to lift the pelvis and take pressure off the knees.
- Rest your hands on your thighs, close your eyes, and in this meditative position, return your awareness to the remembrance of your unique talents. Allow every inhale for remembrance, and every exhale to
settle your pelvis down, releasing into this affirmation.
- Remain 5 – 8 breaths in this seated breath meditation. To come out
of Virasana, come to table top position and stretch the legs back one
at a time.
9. Ardha matseyandrasana
- Bring the right foot and shin forward as you did for pigeon pose. Take the left foot and place it flat to the floor outside your right thigh.
- Be sure both sides of your pelvis are equally weighted; feel free to use a blanket to create this steady foundation.
- With your fingertips to the floor behind you, engage the legs and root the pelvis down.
- With every inhale, extend long through your spine to lift the chest, and fill with remembrance of your Self.
- Stay tall in the spine, inhale and move your right arm up, and on the exhale, cross your body placing the right elbow to the outside of the left knee. Remain tall in the spine with each inhale, and with each exhale, move the chest into the twist.
- Remain in the pose for 3 – 5 breaths. Inhale to release out of the twist and change legs.
10. Supta baddakonasana
- For the final round, a restorative position that opens the chest yet helps you feel grounded is the best choice.
- Place a blanket roll lengthwise on your mat behind you. Bring your feet together to touch and allow the knees to open to the sides.
- Keeping your pelvis on the mat, lay your torso down on the blanket so it lines up just under your spine.
- Let your arms be free and open to the sides, and be sure your head is supported on the prop. Feel free to add extra support if needed under each knee. The blanket can feel like a wonderful support, as if you are being held up as who you are, heart wide open, presenting yourself once again fully to the world.
- Remain 5 – 10 minutes.
With these yoga poses, you will be able to find a path to your inner self. Staying connected is always the answer to self-doubt.
This was first published in the August 2015 issue of Complete Wellbeing.
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