Whether it’s a doctor’s appointment, a weigh-in, or a simple conversation with a friend or loved one, there are always times in life when we feel scared to speak up. Sometimes we even feel scared of speaking up to our own selves, which leads us to a semi-unconscious “emotion cheat”. Sometimes we feel that what we are communicating might sound dumb, that it will be taken badly, or that our feelings may not be valid or understood. Guess what? There is a high chance that the person we are going to talk to is feeling the same thing..
Opening ourselves to others is nerve-wracking, especially when accepting those same feelings within us is already hard enough. Both events – opening to others and to oneself – become hard due to the lack of self-compassion and understanding.[/column][/columns_row]
To open up to others, we have to first recognize our own thoughts and feelings and accept them for what they are, then we are ready to communicate them.
Here are some things I’ve learned in my yoga practice that have helped me overcome this passive personality and work on my assertiveness – with others and myself.
To be assertive and compassionate towards myself I usually focus on the yoga philosophy of understanding the place you’re at and meeting yourself there; not where you believe you should be. When you are in a yoga class and a teacher names an advanced posture, you have to be very assertive with your body in order to get to the best place the physical body can get to without creating harm, tension, or any kind of injury. In a similar vein, when being assertive with yourself;
you have to learn to listen to your emotions and sensations and accept where they are at, without pushing them towards where you – or your therapist, family, friends – believe you should be.
If your best friend was opening up to you about the things you are opening up about, what would you say to her/him? Would you react the same way you are reacting towards yourself? If you knew that the person we love the most will be injured from doing the advanced version of a certain pose, would you let him/her?…. then why do you let yourself?
To practice this self-compassion within the body, I will post an advanced posture with its steps. The practice is to follow them clearly and listening to your thoughts and body sensations while doing each step and stop in the step you feel it becomes uncomfortable – yet not painful. That’s how assertiveness feels at first – uncomfortable, but it’s not painful. And with time and practice you will be able to overcome that uncomfortable feeling and reach new levels of assertiveness – or yoga poses!
HANDSTAND (Adho Mukha Vrksasana)
Handstand is one of the most complete postures of all the yoga asanas; it involves physical and mental strength, concentration, self-belief, heart opening, mental control, and muscular control; all in one! This posture is cataloged as advanced due to all that it encompasses. The following are some simple steps that you can follow to get to the full pose. However, the exercise is to learn to mindfully enter the pose while listening to your body and where you feel that you are at your maximum expression – uncomfortable, but not painful.
Sit with your back straight against a wall and stretch both of your legs forward at their max (Figure 1). Then, change the position of your feet (by bending your knees) and, and place both of your hands strongly in the place where your feet were. The knuckles must be placed strongly against the floor, fingers slightly separated, and hands shoulder-width apart.
Without moving your hands arrange your knees to be under your hips and hip-width apart. At this moment, you are on your hands and knees with a neutral spine (not arching or curving the back) with your feet pointing the wall behind you.
Slowly, without modifying the position of your hands or feet, hands or feet position begin to stretch your legs while pushing your sit bones towards the ceiling, arriving at a Downward Dog position (Figure 2 A). If this feels enough, feel free to stay here and feel the length in the spine and strength in the arms. Downward dog is a basic pose in the yoga practice.
Raise the leg you feel most comfortable with and place your foot firmly on the wall (Figure 2 B). If this feels enough, lower that leg, place it firmly on the floor and repeat with the other leg. Do this as many times as wanted and rest in child’s pose if needed.
Place your foot against the wall and begin to raise your hips and other leg. Place both feet beside each other shoulder-width apart (Figure 2C). If this is enough stay here for 5 breaths and come down, passing through downward dog (Figure 2A & 2D) into child’s pose (Figure 3).
Separate one foot from the wall and lengthen the leg towards the ceiling with your foot flexed (Figure 4) and stay in this position for 3 breaths; repeat with the other side and come down to rest in child’s pose.
If you wish, the last step is to separate one foot first and follow with the other one until both legs are straight up in the same line as your torso (Figure 5). Your hands should be strong and for this step, make sure to have someone with you who can catch you if you fall.