#Girl Power: Why Yoga is Great for Girls
Top 5 Reasons Yoga is Great for Girls
I have been having a love affair with yoga for more than 20-years. That is a relatively short time considering yoga has been around for more than 5,000! From taking my very first class as a young woman in my early 20’s, to practicing and teaching yoga for almost 20 years, yoga has provided me with a foundation and set of tools for personal growth, evolution and expansion in profound and life changing ways.
The yoga that I practice has evolved as I have over the years, and has helped me learn how to be a better person, friend, partner, mother, and businesswoman. It provides me a rich framework to enjoy and savor the joys in my life, and embrace my mistakes and challenges with greater peace, confidence and compassion.
I strongly believe yoga is an exceptional framework for girls to learn and practice because what we learn on the mat translates to living a richer life off the mat, and here is why:
1.) Coordination/Alignment: The base of the word yoga comes from the root “yuj” which means to yoke or bring into union, to connect and align. Ancient yogis understood that the practice of yoga helped our thoughts (mind) and bodies come into a state of equanimity.
On a physical level working with yoga poses and certain breathing techniques helps the mind and body to learn how to better work together in a coordinated way.
The more we work with our body by practicing the poses, the more we understand our postural alignment within the poses and the nuances of movement and breath as well as our thoughts and perceptions as they arise. We begin to become more coordinated managing it all as we come into greater alignment with both our inner and outer selves.
The body itself is perceived simultaneously through both the left and the right sides of the brain. These parallel processes are reflected in the mind’s capacity to perceive the body as both subject and object, as both I and “it” at the same time. This access, both to direct and subjective experience and to observation of the self with a perspective, provides a person with a dynamic fulcrum from which to explore the overall experience of one’s own self, both inwardly and outwardly. (Pallaro, 2007a). This is an extremely important point, as being aware of and connected to our bodies in a positive way creates confidence on the inside and out.
There is a difference between bravado and confidence. Confidence does not have to mean you always appear strong and invincible. We can be confident in who we are and confident in how we feel—letting our guard down, and not pretending we are anything other than who we are in each moment… happy… angry… sad... vulnerable… ecstatic... bored… tired… thrilled... cranky... in love.
We can think a lot about confidence. We can talk about tips to make us feel more confident. Yoga helps confidence live in both the body and the mind. We think and feel confident when we practice yoga. Yoga creates a space and place to feel confident, in all its permutations, to explore it curiously and EMBODY confidence.
According to Katty Kay and Clair Shipman, authors of “The Confidence Code”, confidence is not in your head. In fact, you must get out of your head to create it and use it. Confidence is linked to doing. It is not letting your doubts consume you. It is taking action. It is a willingness to get out of your comfort zone and do hard things, such as having resilience and not giving up. “Confidence is the stuff that turns thoughts into action.”
Buddhist expert Sharon Salzberg described confidence as an essential, elemental energy. “I think confidence is the way we meet our circumstances, whether they are wondrous and wonderful or really hard and difficult. It’s almost like a wholeheartedness, where we’re not holding back. We’re not fragmented. We’re not divided. We’re just going towards what’s happening. There’s an energy to it. I think that’s confidence. And it’s absolutely part of human fulfillment.”
When girls practice yoga they build confidence in themselves as well as resiliency in their body and mind.
The ancient yogi’s knew long ago what modern science is now testing and proving, that yoga is a powerful tool to help calm the nervous system. With our fast-paced lives, work and school demands, staying stress-free can feel like a challenge. Practicing yoga helps you realize you are more than your thoughts and your emotions. Take anxiety for example. Generally anxious thoughts can be irrational. Practicing yoga with breathing and meditation helps us learn how to be in the moment and notice when an anxious thought has crept in. We have awareness to make a choice about that thought.
Here is a simple strategy that can help disrupt an anxious thought:
- Take 3 long breaths:Have the exhale be longer than the inhale.
- Recognize your thought: and say to yourself, “ This is an anxious thought.”
- Label the thought: “ This anxious thought keeps telling me that I did really bad on my test. I know this is my worry talking to me.”
- Challenge the thought: “ Did I do everything I could to prepare for the test?” and “Can I think of one part of it that went well?”
Just like yoga and meditation, the more you choose to practice the strategy the easier it becomes to be aware of and label disruptive thoughts and feelings.
4.) Connection:There is a deep need in all of us to feel and know that we are accepted, connected and a part of something bigger than ourselves. Yoga helps us find connection first within ourselves through breath and movement. Yoga also teaches how to connect to your own self-worth, to a place within us that is generous, confident, wise and loving. When we see these qualities in ourselves we can more easily see these qualities in others.
When we are connected to these qualities it is easier to see beyond the surface of a person and see their intrinsic worth and value. We quickly learn that we are all worthy of safety, trust, respect and love. The more we can connect with those qualities the more those qualities begin to show up in our lives and in the world at large.
One of the biggest gifts practicing yoga has given me is learning and practicing compassion toward others and myself. As I unroll my yoga mat every morning to practice I remind myself to hold a kind and gentle space for me even if: I do not get all the poses right, or my yoga pants are too tight because of my love/hate relationship with cheese, or my body feels tired and I feel grumpy.
Cultivating compassion in your life can change how you speak to and treat others, and yourself. Acting with compassion opens us up to life and helps us remember that we are all in this together and we all experience thoughts and feelings. We all have good and bad days, bumbling qualities, challenges, old hurts and a need to feel like we belong.
When you recognize these things in yourself and others you begin to cultivate compassion and a more kind and honest mindset. Practicing living life with greater compassion and kindness also has serious benefits. According to Positive Psychology Coach, Lynda Wallace, “Research clearly demonstrates that people who treat themselves with self-compassion rather than self-criticism take greater responsibility for their mistakes and are more motivated to try again after failure. As a result, they are less depressed and anxious, have greater confidence in their abilities, and are less upset when things don’t go well.”
As people, society and culture evolves, so too does yoga. Traditionally yoga was taught mostly by and to men. Today hundreds of thousands of women study, teach and practice yoga. The one thing I have seen over-and-over again, is that yoga transforms. Just like a chrysalis transforming into a beautiful winged butterfly, yoga transforms people from the inside out. Women and girls need more ways to learn how to tap into their own inner power and strength, they need positive role models and support. They need a community that supports them on their journey of becoming the person they are striving to be. The more each of us work to become empowered, compassionate, and living life in alignment with our purpose, the more we can help others do the very same thing. Yoga provides a platform for this and so much more.
Join Chris as she teams up with Leah Berdysz, owner of Empowered & Poised at their upcoming workshop #GirlPower on Saturday October 12th from 2-4 p.m. Learn how to empower and educate girls on fundamental skills focused on mental, social and physical well-being. This workshop is for caregivers and their daughters to strengthen bonds and nurture their sense of empowerment and confidence through a combination of lecture, learning, play and movement.This class is open to all levels and no exercise experience is needed. For girls ages 8-14.
Circle of Renewal is a new gathering place at the Shore Cultural Centre in Euclid, OH, offering yoga and wellness services including empowerment programs for women and girls.