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Improving Low Self Esteem with Yoga E-mail
Written by Jeff Behar   

yoga_health_benefitsDo you lack confidence and worry what people think about you? Have you ever stopped yourself doing something you really wanted to do because you felt nervous or too shy to try something new?

Do you dream of being an expert in your chosen field?

Do you dream of being a actor? A professional baseball player? Owning your own home? Owning youir own business?

Would you like to have the self- confidence to stand up for your beliefs, to follow your heart and set your own positive path through life?

Whatever your dreams are, there comes a time in your life when you need the self confidence to turn your dreams into realities.

When this time comes, when the urge inside you becomes too strong, what can you do, who can you turn to? Who can you rely on to support and encourage you to improve your confidence so you can achieve your goals?

The ancient practice of yoga may well be the answer.

Yoga offers to us a simple and effective technique of developing the right attitude that can give us the inner confidence to achieve what we so desire in life.

Yoga calls them bhavas.


What are bhavas?

Literally translated, the word ‘Bhava' stands for a feeling or attitude. In context of Yogic studies, Bhava indicates an accompanying attitude for a given technique or concept. Bhava in yoga refers to any of a series of ascending moods.

Our experiences and feelings are all part of our bhava.

When we have the right attitude, we accomplish our purpose harmoniously.

First introduced by Dr. Jayadeva, President of The Yoga Institute, Bhavas play a very important role on the path of Yoga. Regular and repeated practice of these techniques slowly enhances the accompanying Bhava into one's personality.

The Four Bhavas

Yogic practices can also be classified based on these four Bhavas:
  • Dharma
  • Jnana,
  • Vairagya, and
  • Aiswarya
The Right Attitude for Developing Self Esteem

Dharma Bhava. Unlike the commonly believed connotation of ‘religion', the word Dharma means Duty. At every point in life, one needs to understand what one's duty is in that given situation, prioritize the tasks and then move ahead. It is believed that one who is always on the path of Dharma, is saved from all sorts of pains and sufferings, etc. In fact, Yoga even outlines a hierarchy of duties, one's first duty is to self, then family and friends, place of work, society and finally, humanity in general. Often we tend to neglect this hierarchy, for example over-working without eating in time or eating wrong food, not resting sufficiently, or indulging into social work without looking after the family, etc. Neglecting this hierarchy, leads to several conflicts and problems at the intra and inter-personal level. All meditative asanas belong to this Bhava. 

  • Associate with people of positive character. Avoid the company of people who are always critical of or reject others. Even people with a high amount of self confidence cannot withstand the effects of a negative environment. They eventually will begin to doubt their ability and their performance will begin to deteriorate. George Washington said "Associate yourself with people of good quality if you esteem your reputation, for it is better to be alone than in bad company").
  • Don't take undue criticism from self and others.  The first step in improving self esteem is to begin to challenge the negative messages of the critical inner voice. For example, instead of being unfairly harsh by saying, "people said they liked my talk, but it was nowhere near as good as it should have been. I cannot believe no one noticed all the places I messed up. I am such an imposter." Be reassuring and say, "Wow they really liked it. Maybe it wasn't perfect but I have worked hard on that talk and did a good job. I am proud of myself. This is a great success." Instead of saying, "He is frowning, he didn't say anything but I know it means he doesn't like me", say "ok, he's frowning but I don't Know why. It could have nothing to do with me, so maybe I should ask him."
  • Practice self-nurturing through a balanced yogic life style. Nurture and care for yourself, and in doing so show the world that you are valuable, competent, deserving and lovable. Take care of your health - eat well, get enough sleep, regular exercise, practice good hygiene and so on.
Vairagya Bhava. Commonly understood as renunciation, this Bhava actually refers to detachment. For a householder, fulfilling his duties to family is very important and renunciation doesn't necessarily take one to detachment. Vairagya actually leads a householder to a state of being ‘in the world but not of the world'. The components of this Bhava are humility, objectivity, reducing the ego, ‘let-go' attitude, surrender, etc. All the relaxation asanas, forward bending asanas, head-low postures and asanas involving twist of the spinal cord have been classified under Vairagya.
  • Set Limits. Set limits for yourself and others, defining the boundries to what you will tolerate and what you will not in relationships. Don't always try to please others. It is considerate when you care about another person's feelings, but you must remember that your needs are just as important? Give yourself permission to fulfill your own dharma. Practice assertiveness skills (saying no to sales people are a good place to start!)
  • Learn to laugh at past disappointments. Instead of dwelling on things you can't change, use them as an opportunity for insight and personal growth.
  • Move on. Learning to forgive and forget can help us immensely when we are trying to move on in life.

Jnana Bhava: In Yoga, Jnana refers to Awareness and Knowledge. According to ancient Indian philosophy, all that one needs to know and understand for a meaningful life is actually present within. However, Maya or illusion keeps pulling us into the external world. We keep busy in the world outside looking for a purpose, some meaning. This leaves us confused and frustrated. Jnana in Yoga begins with awareness about self, at all levels - physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. The components of this Bhava are concentration, co-ordination, training of senses, breath awareness and control, balance, etc. Asanas involving upward and sideward stretches, asanas for extremities of the body and pranayamas belong to Jnana Bhava. 

  • Be yourself, not someone else. Trying to be like someone else leads to a lack of self worth and confidence. You are unique and cannot be someone else. Strive to be better - YES, but don't criticize yourself for not being as successful, as beautiful, as slim or as popular as someone else. You deserve better. Accept the fact that you aren't perfect at everything and that you don't have to be. Believe me, nobody is perfect.
  • Accept compliments with grace and humility. Respond to every compliment with a simple thank you. When you accept a compliment you are communicating respect to the person who is giving it to you. For example, when someone compliments you by saying, "You are looking beautiful today". We never accept it, most often we respond by saying, "No, not at all, what rubbish!" Instead we should learn to accept compliments graciously. Don't miss out on any opportunity to pass along sincere compliments too.
  • Determine your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats (SWOT Analysis). Determine your personal attributes. Positive things about your physical, mental and emotional self such as the way you look, your mind and emotions, skills you have and those you are developing, your potential, and your personal values.
  • Set SMART goals, ones which are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timebound. Well defined goals give a person a sense of direction and a feeling of accomplishment when they are finally achieved. They are a key building block for developing a higher degree of self esteem or personal worth.  And one can make you feel inferior without your permission. 

Aishwarya Bhava:  When one is truly on the path of the first three Bhavas, viz Dharma, Jnana and Vairagya, the feeling of achievement, satisfaction, the knowledge yet being humble refers to as the Bhava of Aiswarya. All this adds great of confidence in one's personality. In fact, the confidence that one may experience without the first three Bhavas, when analysed carefully, is usually a superficial one which one puts up only as a show-off for others. This Bhava is difficult to understand theoretically, but is easier to experience through perseverance and faith. The components of Aiswarya are confidence, self-reliance, sense of achievement, etc. The Kriyas and all asanas involving backward bending of the spine belong to this bhava.

  • Focus on your accomplishments. Congratulate yourself for your personal achievements, however big or small. Remind yourself daily of the things you do well and the courage you have shown in the past or present. For example even a small thing like making that tough phone call can be an accomplishment if you want it to be.
  • Turn Scars into "STARS". Read the life stories of people who have turned a negative situation into a positive one, adversity into advantage, stumbling blocks into stepping stones. They refused to let disappointment and failures pull them down.
Bottom Line

Through the daily practice of yoga meditation exercises and self reflection, one's self esteem can be improved. Of course it's ok to have ups and downs in your feelings but having low self esteem isn't ok. It is important to know you are worth a lot, and to learn to feel good about yourself just for who you are.

Think POSITIVE, act POSITIVE, and be POSITIVE about everything you do. You will be amazed with the results you can achieve by using YOGA to boost your self esteem.

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