Yoga for building self esteem and confidence

We have all heard about the health benefits of yoga, it can improve strength, flexibility and muscle tone, it can help you become more aware of your posture and calmer in the mind. What a lot of people don't know, however, is that yoga can also play a great role in increasing your self esteem and confidence. I believe true confidence comes from an authentic connection to your true self, and yoga is a systemised science that can provide the pathway towards this self realisation.

Without self confidence, we let fear take control and we can end up in some pretty awful situations. My self esteem was at an all time low in 2004, and this led me to be in, and stay in, an abusive relationship for two years. I became physically ill and along with that, I felt the weakest I have ever felt in my life. Getting out of the house and going to yoga was the only time I had a glimpse of my true self, and that self had become overshadowed by fear and insecurity. Practising yoga helped remind me that I was strong, it helped me to become clearer in my mind and re-build my broken spirit. I'd love to share with you some key parts of the practice to help with confidence and self esteem, and to remember that you are strong, you are worthy and you are more than enough.

How does yoga really help?

The World Health Organisation defines health as a dynamic state of complete physical, mental, social, and spiritual wellbeing and not merely as the absence of disease or infirmity. Yoga views the mind, body and spirit as one, aiming to balance the entire system. The effects that practising yoga has on the personality (gunas) has been measured and proven to help self esteem and confidence.

According to a 2009 study in the International Journal of Yoga, “Yoga helps in the improvement in gunas (personality) and self esteem. These findings reveal that yoga has greater influence on holistic personality growth (gunas) when compared to routine physical exercise. Hence, it can be considered independently to promote quality of life and health, prevent chronic diseases, and to promote socio-economic development.”

Love your body

Yoga poses and exercises can help give your muscles a more toned appearance that help you to feel and look better. Thanks to the breathing practices of yoga, more oxygen can enter your muscles, and it's said that this can provide your whole system more vital energy (prana). Yoga has helped me to view my body less from the outside and look more in wonder at the brilliant architecture and workings of the body as a whole. Learning to appreciate the amazing things our body can do, rather than focusing on what we can't do or don't like is hugely empowering and helps to re-focus the mind.

You can't do everything!

Self-confidence helps us get rid of fear of the things that we cannot do. However, the truth of the matter is that we cannot do everything, but this doesn't necessarily mean that we should feel bad about having limitations. Anyone who has got on the mat realises that yoga is extremely humbling and can help you understand more about your mind as well as your body. With yoga, you can become more aware of your limitations, as well as your potential. Becoming aware of our potential also means that we can become more aware of the limiting thoughts and actions that get in our way. Meditation can help you grasp the concept that limitations are not downfalls, but simply shortcomings that have to be accepted. When we stop trying to do everything, we give ourselves space to focus on what is really important.

Time to digest

Imagine if you never gave yourself the time to digest your food, with no time to eliminate what you didn't need. You'd be constipated, right? We all know the importance of the physical digestive process, yet we don't seem to place the same importance on mental digestion. We all need time to digest our thoughts, feelings and emotions or the mind gets overwhelmed and ‘constipated'! A build-up of negative thoughts can ultimately lead to depression, but meditation and breathing practices can help you digest these thoughts and declutter the mind. Once you learn how to deal with stress, your self confidence will increase as you feel more able to deal with life's problems.

Self esteem and confidence in practice

Yoga practice - Stand in your strength

Meditation practice - Declutter the mind

Meditation to declutter the mind from Nikki Ralston on Vimeo.

Photography: Josephine Granese