Yoga has many profound effects on the body and mind, from improved flexibility to decreased stress. But it can even shift aspects of our “personality”. I have seen yoga help improve people’s confidence, through a combination of many factors.
Imagine how you would walk if you knew the floorboards under you could break. Instantly, you would walk hesitantly, afraid of every step. The fear would affect your body, and you would spend extra energy on cautious hesitation. Now imagine the reverse: the confidence that the flexibility of your feet and ankles could respond to uneven ground, preventing falls. You would free up energy, you could look up in different ways, and your whole being – body and personality would respond. Feeling stronger in the body can help us feel more confident in our lives.
Yoga gives the body the opportunity to strengthen the small muscles of balance and weight transfer, in a safe space, so that the strength and flexibility can be accessed when needed. Since events like falling can become more common as we get older, practising yoga can help keep the body strong and resilient to prevent such events, and improve healing if they happen.
But yoga’s ability to influence our confidence goes further than that. The physical body and personality are not separate. We know this intuitively. Many of our idioms for people’s personality traits, like “pushover” or “headstrong” are both physical descriptions and personalities traits or states. They are more than metaphors when you create a state in the body, you create the state in the whole mind and body network. Contemporary neuroscience is proving this scientifically.
Yoga poses like warrior and tree use metaphoric names to indicate the kind of energy cultivated by the pose.
So a posture that represents a lack of confidence, a caved in chest or slumped spine, with a weak breath and voice, is both a cause and effect of lack of confidence. Therefore, transformation of the physical can transform the mental and emotional. These postural habits are often targets of yoga practice. Yoga postures target opening the chest to project the heart area forward. Sitting and standing postures cultivate the verticality, stability and muscular balance of the spine. And we control and extend breathing to exercise the muscles of breath and voice, giving an internal support to whole spine and chest, while improving vocal tone and projection.
We can think of it as the “fake it till you make it” factor, but that isn’t totally accurate. It is more “embody it until you become it”. By practising the shape, the body gets used to it as a way we can move in the world, off the yoga mat. You could do this through poses, or through imagery. In a meeting, I might imagine how Michelle Obama or the Duchess of Cambridge would carry herself, which changes my confidence and poise instantly.
Thinking of embodying poise and confidence, might not be enough if we lack the range of movement or the strength to maintain that posture. In daily life, most of us do not move our body’s full range. We might stand or sit in a fixed posture for hours at a time. If we never go into different ranges of movement, over time, we will lose that range. Yoga practice expands the range of movement possibilities, allowing different postures for different times.
Throughout life, different kinds of physical, emotional or interpersonal events can dent our confidence. Alongside physical poses, breathing and relaxation, many yoga teachers encourage an empowered perspective. Whilst opening up and stretching the physical body through yoga, affirmations and intentions are particularly powerful. I often encourage students to affirm they are worthy, deserving and good enough, as they are. Connecting this self-image to the physical embodiment of yoga, with regular practice seems to multiply the effects, creating a deeper sense of confidence, internal support and presence to move through life.
By working body and mind, yoga gives the muscular and nervous systems a new road map for operating, that includes qualities of confidence, grace and empowerment in body and mind.
For further information, visit Mollie MorrisLast modified: June 10, 2021