Using Yoga To Challenge Your Beliefs

India2012 083The beliefs we have about ourselves and the world around us can rule our lives. The positive beliefs serve and support us where as the negative ones can really hold us back if we are not careful.

Beliefs have a tendency to become self fulfilling prophecies. I’ll use a very common one as an example – “I am not good enough”;

Belief – I am not good enough.

Expectation – If you believe you are not good enough you will go into a situation with that expectation in mind, whether it’s conscious or unconscious.

Behaviour – The expectation of not being good enough will affect how you behave in the situation, again consciously or most often unconsciously. For example in a yoga class not feeling good enough may hold you back from challenging yourself to the next level, trying something new or even going to a class at all.

Outcome – Your behaviour will affect the outcome, for example by not trying something new/ challenging yourself/ going to the class you will never get past the point of where you are at now, keeping yourself stuck feeling not good enough.

The outcome then reinforces your belief and the circle goes round again.

The thing is we have generally made up our beliefs during our early childhood when we didn’t have the adult wisdom we have now. They have been going round and round like this in our minds gaining strength over the years until we can’t see things any other way. We were not born as babies with these negative beliefs and they are not the truth.

Our positive beliefs also work in the same way but the difference with them is that they support us. We also often have concrete evidence to support them, like results we have achieved, feedback from others  and so on. The negative ones are just meanings we have made up to the outcome of situations based on childhood experience and decision we made about ourselves back then.

We can change our beliefs, we made them up before so we can make them up again!

Once you have acknowledged what your negative belief is you can start to question, why is this rubbish? Often we don’t ever bother to do this so just questioning it can start to break it down.

The next stage is to work out what you would rather believe, what would support you in life rather than hold you back?

Repetition of this new belief will start to build new neural pathways, thought patterns, to become the way you think. Also creating evidence to support it will help to. This is where your yoga practice comes in.

Notice in yoga where you feel challenged, where you stop and maybe drop into child’s pose instead of trying something new. Notice what you say to yourself in those moments. This could be evidence of a belief you are holding on to.

Then step out of your comfort zone and try something different. I’ll give you a personal example of where I have experienced this through yoga and it shifted my mindset.

When ever I was in a yoga class and people would start to go up into headstand I wouldn’t even try. I wasn’t good enough yet, I wouldn’t be able to do it, there was no point in trying. There was also something there around asking for help, I didn’t like to, I was self sufficient I didn’t need to ask. Until one day determination took over and I decided to challenge myself, I also asked for help!

The teacher helped me to get up into headstand and stood by me while I was in it to stop me from falling over backwards. This was my biggest fear, that I would flip over and injure myself. Over time, practising and practising I gradually was able to get up there and stay on my own. Of course I had flipped over a lot before then, and this taught me that it’s ok to fall and it’s nothing to be scared of, it’s all part of the journey.

Mastering a pose that I had been scared of and didn’t think I was good enough to do backed up more empowering beliefs like “I can do anything I set my mind to”, “It’s ok to ask for help” and “I am good enough”!

It was after mastering the headstand that I felt I could train to be a yoga teacher. Which is crazy as I now know as a teacher you do not have to be able to do a headstand, it’s not a requirement, but it was just something that shifted my confidence anyway!

If yoga is something you’d like to try but you have been putting it off because you aren’t flexible/strong/ calm minded enough then just give it a go anyway! There is no set requirement for yoga, we are all different.

If you already practice yoga look for opportunities to challenge your beliefs and empower yourself in life.