Self-esteem & Confidence

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I can always tell by the look on ones face after yoga, that there is peace inside all of us waiting to be tapped into. "I love the way I feel after," a new student speaks with utter confidence. I could tell by the ease with which she walked and spoke, sitting to put on her shoes. The longer I have practiced, the more I have noticed that we are all learning how to be present to our actions, balancing the energy inside ourselves with the day to day traffic of life. Both on the mat and in our lives, we don't know exactly what might happen next. Even when we have a plan, plans change. Even when we go into our practice thinking we are there to calm our minds, we may have to face just the opposite first, the wave of thoughts echoing. We may have a moment when a shoulder opens up, or we feel a shift in spine or the hips and ahhh, we surrender to grace, to ease, to the lightness we feel after. The freedom we feel in the body transfers to the freedom we feel in life. When we have a balance of rest and action, both active and passive, the body remains in balance and the mind is less apt to cling to stresses that otherwise may cause one to be imbalanced anxious, or fearful. The intention is not only to tame the mind, but to bring awareness to the emotions that may be stirred. When I first started learning warrior ii and the teacher would hold us in this pose for a long time, I would find myself getting angry. I noticed that I was feeling my own anger surface and it had nothing to do with the teacher, emotions trapped in the body only stagnate until they have a way to surface. How easy it might have been to say, "Oh, that teacher, he held us there too long, I don't like his class." I knew I was seeing the truth of long held emotions surfacing. As I continued to practice warrior ii the anger in the posture softened, lessened, and eventually left. What has remained is a sense of confidence. I allowed myself to feel it, allow it to surface, and let it go or what I call, breathing it out. To do this, one must exert equal opposite efforts or actions that stimulate and calm the parasympathetic nervous system. One can refer to the dosha quiz: http://store.chopra.com/dosha-survey.asp to find out more information on your constitution and different ways you can understand what it means for you to be "in balance." This is a world of help and really supports taking the guess work out when it comes to supporting what your, yes your body, needs. Remember, not all body constitutions are the same. When we have an attitude of compassion for ourselves, we also provide that for others. Today, we are focusing on confidence. Having confidence is really feeling worthy of being in the world: giving, receiving and sharing along the way.
 
We experience sensations in the body through all of our movements. When we go to work, we put on a certain type of shoe. How does that shoe support the foot? What are we experiencing in the very surroundings we are moving in? What sort of interaction in the world is effecting your inner landscape. Where can you bring more attention to your posture, how you sit stand and bend down. Do you slouch? A regular practice allows you to feel more free in your skin all the time. You roll up your mat, but your yoga has really just begun. I see the soft smile on the faces of those who leave class feeling lighter. I watch the bodies change as people share they no longer need surgery or have finally stopped trying so hard to loose weight and have found that they just love moving more, so the do, and the weight loss is a natural expression of the shedding or letting go of suffering.   
 
Falling is part of letting go. Letting go breeds confidence. Confidence is not purely based on results, it is a decision.
We start out holding on for dear life, end then...we begin to live a little and let go, and live a little more, and let go, sometimes a lot more...and the living continues as we set free the fear and be present to the movement in the moment. I remember my first time at the high beam in gymnastics as a kid. I knew I could overcome my fear of heights, the bars taught me how to trust myself and trust the net. Even when it doesn't look like there's a net, we must trust our inner guidance and learn how to listen. Divine grace speaks through us all. We must first quiet the mind long enough to hear the voice within. When I get quiet, I feel a sense of deep deep stillness. This place exists within us all, it's simply a matter of waking up to the stillness within. Sometimes the stillness is amidst sirens of thoughts in the mind or a dog barking in the yard. We cannot quiet all of the sounds, we can only merge with them. Through this merging, stillness emerges. This is a great gift, the gift of presence and expansion. 
 
When we surrender the mind in motion and engage in the right action at the right time, we are present and confident.
 
One might think that practicing the postures we are "best at" or those that are our "favorite" are the best for our self-esteem and confidence. I challenge this theory. If we are already good at something, wouldn't it make sense to strengthen an area where we are weak and transfer some confidence over into another area or ability? With a balanced practice of active and passive postures, one is already going to strengthen and energize the muscle of creativity, nourishing the active and passive aspects. This allows one the ability to see beyond the comfort zone, for there is no playfulness in being comfortable all of the time. There is a difference between freedom and comfort. Temporary comforts cannot replace the unbound and free aspects of ourselves. We may be comfortable in the dark or un-illuminated ourselves, that voice of the critic or the judge, this simply becomes a faint voice, no longer running the show or dictating. Writers who have often gone through "writers block" are all too familiar with this voice. This small self voice is not secluded for writers. Each of us must move past this obstacle and see truly our gifts and graces. With time, we greet the inner landscape as a place to rest in stillness and in motion; a place to explore and surrender. Over time,one begins to discern between the confident self and the small self, or the ego driven mind machine.
 
This is the place many of us get stuck or stopped, making up excuses for why we weren't ever good enough or didn't start "early enough." The truth is, we must step out on a limb and take a risk if we are ever to learn, expand and grow. It is important to strengthen the areas that we are weak without focusing upon these areas too critically. The practice is a place for you to "tune up, tune in and let out" the raw and real, confident and sometimes not so confident you. This in turn breeds confidence at it's finest, with a willingness to practice the imperfect. When we are in tune with our body, the emotions are in check and we can tap into our inner wellspring of creativity and confidence. We begin to allow ourselves the time and space, honoring where we are along the journey. I intend this segment leaves you feeling motivated to move your body and draw your awareness deep into your senses. Everyone deserves to feel freedom right now on some level. Who knows, today may be the first time you lift your self into a crane pose (Bakasana, more on bakasana: http://www.yogajournal.com/practice/172) and fly! Or, simply sit still for a while, take a few deep breaths and remember that even if you aren't practicing yoga asanas right now, you can practice breathing into ease and confidence throughout the day. Go ahead...take a heaping pile of confidence...it's only a breath away!