It is easy to feel disempowered. Our always on-the-go culture makes us feel overwhelmed, overworked, and exhausted. It is all too common to experience insecurity, low self-worth, and anxiety throughout the day. When we step on our yoga mat, this can all shift. Yoga can empower us to heal and nurture our physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual, well-being. Through a dedicated practice of yoga, we discover our focus, vitality, power, and courage.
Commonly associated with strength, self-confidence, and high energy, empowerment means something slightly different to each of us. However, regardless of our own nuanced definitions of this level of being, we all have the ability to empower ourselves through yoga. Since the practice of yoga strengthens and unifies physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being, it can lead to a sense of empowerment in all aspects of life.
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Although for most of us, the reason for practicing asana is not restricted to physical fitness, physical postures increase strength, flexibility, and balance, which naturally leads to feelings of accomplishment, confidence, and power.
A yoga practice also deepens our relationship with the body. Once we begin to tune in to ourselves, yoga becomes a time to “check-in,” monitoring changes from day to day. By practicing regularly, we work with our own boundaries and see benefits throughout time.
We become aware of our own physical stamina as prana, our life force energy, moves through our bodies. This fountain of energy is available to us whenever we need it. Furthermore, we can continue to explore deeper aspects of the physical self, including the energetic body, by engaging bandhas, or energy-directing locks, throughout our yoga practice.
If you’re feeling weak, timid or insecure, consider spending some time in a standing pose that keeps you grounded with a straight spine and your open chest exposed to the world. Examples of empowering positions include Goddess pose, your favorite Warrior stance, or simply standing tall in Mountain pose while gently engaging mula bandha.
Maintaining a yoga practice requires tapas, or mental discipline. Just by finding time to commit to yoga, we overcome laziness and lethargy, which is empowering on its own.
Apart from this, spending time in silence with ourselves on or off a mat gives us an opportunity to observe the mind. Through this practice, it becomes evident that we are not our thoughts, and that even our biggest thoughts are small compared to our entire being. By staying present from moment to moment, we take a step back from the typically-endless flow of mental chatter–a process that liberates us from our problems and helps provide clarity towards challenging situations.
Studies also show that a regular yoga practice helps us to cultivate positive mental states, including optimism, will power and inner strength.
For a focused, clear mind (along with other benefits!), try practicing Kapalabhati (breath of fire) at the beginning of each day, noting the results throughout time.
We store emotion in our bodies, and thus, through yoga practice, it’s normal for hidden or repressed feelings or moods to surface. Watching our emotions as they come and go encourages us to pause before immediately reacting to a situation. By not allowing our emotions to dictate our lives, we are better able to connect with ourselves and others.
Yoga also creates time and space to process the emotions that we’re holding onto, both consciously and subconsciously. Because of this, it’s not uncommon to find a sense of peace and acceptance of our feelings after a yoga practice or a detachment from “negative” emotions like anger or fear.
Subtle anatomy points towards the idea that humans tend to build up and hold stagnant emotional energy in the sacral chakra, the space around the hips and reproductive organs. Furthermore, the longer we hold poses, the more time we allow for tapping into the emotional body and for clearing blockages.
To explore the empowerment that comes from releasing and exploring your true feelings, consider a yin practice, letting your body relax into longer holds, or incorporate some gentle restorative hip-opening poses, such as supported Reclined Butterfly to the end of your session.
Most importantly, yoga connects us to the world, both within and outside of our own awareness. Even if you don’t see yourself as a “spiritual” person, by harmonizing body, mind, and breath, it’s possible to find a glimpse of this union through yoga practice.
Learning and living by yogic techniques and philosophy is an ongoing process that helps us to discover our true selves. It encourages us to journey inward in search of health and well-being. By practicing and contemplating the yogic path, we learn to work with and understand both inner and outer strength through exercising our values and boundaries, experimenting with our minds and bodies and seeking our own connection to whatever it is we believe in through a combination of practice, devotion, knowledge, and action.
Yoga teaches us that we are complete beings who are a part of something larger–a sentiment beyond empowering.
To explore spiritual empowerment and oneness with all of life, find a peaceful place to practice yoga in nature, and notice how this affects the way you perceive the world.
Have you found strength and empowerment through your yoga practice? Please share your inspiring stories in the comments below!