3 Surprising Ways Yoga Builds Confidence
Confidence: I have heaps of it, right?
It might surprise you to know that, for a few painful minutes before having to speak in public, my heart pounds out of my chest like a machine gun. Am I scared of speaking in front of strangers? Of course! I don’t know anyone who isn’t at least a tad fearful of judgment from their peers. Well, only a few sociopaths but we won’t count them!
Jokes aside, as human beings, we have an innate need to fit in with our community for our own safety and longevity. The truth is, belonging to a tribe is simply a matter of survival. That’s why our brain considers standing out as an individual to be very risky behaviour!
If individualism is such a danger, why am I writing this blog post encouraging you to use yoga to help you become more confident?
I’m glad you asked! Quite simply, being confident has allowed me to be myself.
Since being 100% me, I have had the confidence to make decisions that are in line with my values and allow me to live life to the fullest. And I want you to feel confident to do the same.
According to yoga philosophy, the first step along a yogi’s journey is ahimsa or kindness. It’s no coincidence that this is the perfect place to begin our journey to confidence. It is well-documented that self-talk matters. I’m not talking about plastering positive affirmations like ‘I am enough’ on your screensaver. But rather, noticing the language that we use when talking out loud and to ourselves.
Many years ago, I went mountain biking a handful of times with my husband. I was terrified of going downhill fast – which is kind of a prerequisite for biking!
Fast-forward to 2020. As lockdown eased, I took advantage of living in the mountains of North Wales and went mountain biking for the first time in years. It’s no exaggeration to say I was like Bambi on wheels, but my self-talk was noticeably different from all those years earlier. This time around, I saw every wobble as progress – a step in the right direction.
My biking journey was a bumpy one, pun intended, but I gave myself encouragement along the way. And every time I stumbled, instead of getting frustrated or angry at myself, I took a deep breath, smiled, and gently praised myself for stepping out of my comfort zone.
Believe it or Not?
My family has always loved to talk! Whenever relatives came to visit, I would sit quietly and enjoy the camaraderie and chuckle at the banter between my cousins. I didn’t say much because I could barely get a word in edgewise! On one such visit, without any malice, my aunt observed that I was “a shy kid.”
Meanwhile in school, my perfectionist tendencies meant that I only put my hand up to answer a question unless I was 100% sure of the answer. My teachers labeled me as ‘quiet,’ perpetuating the myth that I was indeed a ‘shy kid.’ With this reinforcement, it’s no wonder that I believed the narrative for far too long.
I didn’t know it at the time, but ‘I am shy’ was what we call a limiting belief. I believed it to be true and acted accordingly, even though I had grown up singing, dancing, and acting on stage. I spent a good few teenage years living the life of a ‘shy kid.’
Next time you notice yourself using an unhelpful ‘I am’ statement, ask yourself whether it is true or whether it is just a story that you believe to be true.
Then, practice self-compassion by forgiving yourself for believing the story before reframing it into a statement that supports how you want to show up in the world.
Master Your Moves!
There are so many benefits to a physical yoga practice – improved mobility, increased strength, better balance, to name just a few. But getting on your mat and practicing challenging poses can also increase our confidence levels.
It has been proven that learning a skill helps us become more confident people. Whether it’s crow pose or tree pose, it doesn’t make a difference what the challenge is. And, it doesn’t even matter how long it takes. The practice itself is the important part. We become more confident with every attempt and each failure.
Taking this off the mat and into the real world, we learn that failure is a natural part of the process. We no longer fear failure. Believe it or not, with practice, we can actually enjoy failing and recognize the opportunity for growth that each failure presents to us.
In short, we learn to feel the fear and do it anyway!
There are many factors that affect how confident a person may be: genes, cultural background, childhood experiences, the media, and (my personal nemesis) perfectionism.
Here we have just scraped the surface of how yoga has helped me to live a more confident and, ultimately, happier life.
If you need a little support on your journey, ask about my one-to-one program that explores some of the themes mentioned here and much more.
In the meantime, know that fear is not the enemy. Fear is simply the brain’s way of keeping us safe.
And, of course, the fear might not go away. Like me on my bike, you might just have to do it scared!
Or, in the immortal words of Nike: Just do it!
Just like a muscle, the brain becomes stronger with practice. Scientists call this neuroplasticity.
By training our thoughts in a safe environment, we can learn new habits and behaviour patterns. We do this in Laughter Yoga when we laugh on purpose while simulating everyday scenarios that can make us anxious or upset. Over time, this tricks the brain and neutralises the situation.
Try this simple Laughter Yoga exercise to increase confidence and boost resilience:
- Think of something that makes you a little nervous or anxious. Maybe it’s driving in rush hour traffic or speaking in public.
- Now, act out the scene while laughing for a minute or two.
- Then, take two slow, deep breaths to reset the nervous system.
- Repeat as required.
Let me know how it goes!
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