The next time you’ve got a big job interview or a special date you’re nervous about, and all everyone keeps saying is “just breathe,” double down on stress relief by using your breath and your body to give you the extra boost you need. Confidence is all about keeping your cool when you’re under pressure and yoga poses — in addition to improving your flexibility and balance — help you do that by teaching you to relax into a pose and use your breath when holding them becomes difficult.
Here are 9 yoga poses to improve your confidence, each with a role model to inspire you.
Inspiration: Mount Rainier. On a clear day in in Seattle, everyone stops to take in the splendor of snow-capped Mount Rainier standing tall and proud on the horizon.
How to: Stand with your feet together and your legs straight. Rotate your thighs inward and draw up through your legs, core, and spine to the top of your head. Place your hands at your sides, palms facing forward and fingers active. It may look simple but this pose helps keep you calm and is said to help clear your nervous system. The best part is that you can do it pretty much anywhere.
Downward Facing Dog
Inspiration: Family Guy’s Brian Griffin. Though he may never had held downward dog, he knew how to make a mean martini and no one questioned him…even though he was a dog.
How to: The easiest way to start this pose is from your hands and knees. Press your palms firmly into the floor as you press your hips upward and into an upside down “V.” Make sure you don’t hyperextend your knees and, if you have tight hamstrings, you can keep your knees bent. This pose helps decrease anxiety, deepens your breath, and there’s something about being upside down that might give you a different perspective on life.
Inspiration: The Ents. These trees from Lord of the Rings only broke tree pose to save the world.
How to: This pose is all about finding your balance. Beginners can rest their foot in the shin area, but if you feel comfortable you can rest your foot above your knee (never put your foot on your knee). Pick a point in front of you, hold your focus, and breathe, and for an extra challenge, raise your hands up to the sky. This pose benefits concentration, poise, and posture.
Inspiration: Hercules. Even he knew when to take a step back and breathe. And he slayed three-headed monsters.
How To: Starting from a standing position with your feet together, take a big step forward with leg. Bend your front knee 90 degrees and turn your back foot away from your body. Straighten your back leg and square your hips forward. Now take those deep breaths and reach your hands up to the sky. Hold the pose for at least 30 seconds while you give your energy levels a boost and improve your focus and balance.
Inspiration: Joan of Arc. Before going into the heat of battle, this brave warrior knew how to calm any nerves.
How to: Take a big step forward and set your legs up like you did for Warrior I. Instead of lifting your up arms, open them so one faces the front of the room and the other faces the back, with your palms down. Look straight ahead over your front-facing arm and breathe slowly. Hold this pose 30 seconds.
Inspiration: The Golden Gate Bridge. Its bold color calls attention to itself. It’s the most photographed bridge in the world.
How to: Lie on your back, bend your knees, and put your feet flat on the ground, hip-distance apart. Lift your hips up to the sky and let your arms rest by your sides. Hold the pose for at least five breaths.
Inspiration: The Captain’s chair in Star Trek. The captain’s biggest decisions were always made sitting down, so command your chair pose…also known as the thunderbolt.
How to: Stand with your feet together and raise your arms up over your head. Sit back into your thighs while keeping your heart as open to the sky as possible. Make sure your thighs stay parallel to each other and sit down as low as you can without bending forward. Breathe while you feel lightning pulsing through your veins.
Upward Facing Dog
Inspiration: Lassie. Based on a real dog that rescued a sailor during World War I, this brave collie always saves the day.
How to: Lie on your stomach, put your hands flat on the ground underneath your shoulders, and push your torso up off the ground while pressing your tailbone and tops of your feet down. Press your chest forward and look straight ahead. This pose helps open your chest, which makes taking those deep breaths even easier.
Plank and Chaturanga
Inspiration: Captain Jack Sparrow. If (among other things) Jack can walk the plank and survive, you can survive holding plank for 30 seconds.
How to: Lie face down with your hands flat on the ground under your shoulders and your legs straight out behind you. Press up into a push-up and hold at the top with your arms straight and core tight. If that’s easy for you, try chatarunga-ing your way into more confidence by bending your elbows to 90 degrees and holding plank in this position. These two poses increase core strength, which helps improve posture.
Start easy, work your way into the poses, and don’t push yourself too far. Now that you’re ready to take on anything, get out there and seize the day!
Photos by Ian Sitren