Friday, October 22, 2010

Cultivating Confidence

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Confidence is on my mind a lot these days because I'm realizing that it makes all the difference in how people perceive you. A confident yoga teacher emits a completely different energy into a class of students than a teacher who isn't sure of herself. Confidence in a job interview can sometimes make up for a lacking in your skill set. And confidence at a dinner party can be the difference between being the life of the party and making others feel uncomfortable and awkward.

One of my favorite yoga workshops I've ever taken was with Iyengar teacher Patricia Walden a few years ago. It was all about poses that help build self confidence -- something I could certainly stand to have more of lately!

She explained that when she started practicing yoga she was shy and introverted, but practicing certain poses gave her the confidence she needed to come out of her shell. (You can see some of the poses here, but the story is so short, it doesn't really do the workshop justice! Plus, I KNOW there was a Handstand and Crow in there somewhere.) Obviously, it worked for her because now she's one of the most respected teachers in the United States, and she speaks in front of thousands (maybe even millions) of people a year. She doesn't even seem nervous.

I can relate to her story because I've noticed that the more I practice, the more confident I feel in my abilities, too. I think this is why I'm such an arm balancing fool! I'm the girl who used to have such lacking upper body strength it was a struggle to overhand serve a volleyball in high school. But now I can balance all of my body weight. And I don't even fall on my face... usually!

This practice is both uplifting and humbling at the same time. One minute you're rocking a pose, feeling like you could fly. The next second your balance shifts, and you crash into the floor. In a split second you come back to earth--and back to reality. It's like the practice was designed to show you your strengths, but remind you that you're human and make mistakes, too. It's a balance--a dance--that builds a cool confidence, but with humility and the understanding that we all make mistakes. Without the mistakes, there would be no success. It's a valuable lesson I've taken with me off the mat and into my life.

Have you noticed your confidence increase since you began your yoga practice? Which poses make you feel like you can conquer the world?