Here’s how to reclaim your self-confidence, feel better in your body, and help others do the same—starting now.
Yoga philosophy teaches that we have everything we need inside of us to tend to all of life’s moments, from the happiest to the most challenging. When we slow down, get quiet, and pay attention to our personal wisdom, we can gain tremendous clarity about what we need to improve a situation, make a decision, or solve a problem. In other words, all the answers we seek exist inside of us already; we need only trust in our ability to access them.
This philosophy counters our overly stimulating consumer-driven culture. As a society, we are conditioned to look outside of ourselves for answers, seeking external validation for our decisions, feelings, and dreams. We are taught to go faster, push harder, buy more, follow others’ advice, keep up with trends, chase an ideal.
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We also turn outward for others’ approval of our bodies. We do this directly with questions like Do I look all right? or How do I look? and indirectly when we compare ourselves to others, including images on social media and in magazines. Comparison is always a moment of looking outside of ourselves for a sign that we are OK. In the words of Theodore Roosevelt, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” When we define ourselves according to external standards rather than internal ones, we never truly stand in self-confidence.
The Importance of Positive Self-Talk
One of the most profound ways we lose hold of our personal power is through our language, especially when we negate instead of affirm, belittle instead of empower, or chastise instead of validate ourselves. Our language is everything; it shapes our reality, reinforces our body image, and reflects how we feel about ourselves. How we absorb or internalize others’ words and how we speak to ourselves directly impacts our body image and self-esteem.
Our language is not separate from our bodies. In fact, the two are intimately connected. Our bodies translate language through mood, health, perception, and disposition. For example, when we tell ourselves that we don’t measure up, that attitude comes through in subtle ways in our bodies. We might hunch our shoulders or not look others in the eye. This attitude will likely influence how we dress and maybe even how we look at food and nourish our bodies. In contrast, when we feed our minds words of confidence, we are likely to stand a little taller, feel more entitled to share our ideas, and be less distracted by what others are doing. Our dress probably mirrors our confidence, and we’re less likely to compare ourselves to others. The good news is that we can regain our personal power by using language purposefully and mindfully. This is a foundational belief of our body mindful philosophy.
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Enter the “Body Mindful” Movement
What does “body mindful” mean? Body mindfulness is to purposely choose words that nurture self-validation and affirm your body in your self-talk and conversations with others. To be body mindful means to intentionally refrain from disparaging body talk and to challenge guilt, shame, and comparison self-talk. When we are body mindful, we trust that we do not need to measure ourselves against others or change our bodies in the name of social or beauty ideals.
Ultimately, body mindful is a pathway to the gifts and answers that already exist inside of us, those virtues like confidence, resilience, courage, hope, appreciation, and grace that empower us from the inside out and allow us to embrace an attitude of possibility. We can strive to change our exteriors over and over again, but unless our insides are aligned with our higher selves (all of those beautiful virtues), we will never know how to affirm our bodies.
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Just as any skill we want to hone takes dedication to master, so does this body mindful process. We don’t just wake up one day and love ourselves more through pure willpower. Cultivating new body mindful language is wonderful, but it will make a difference only if we practice using it in our inner dialogue every day for the rest of our lives. We must challenge, rewire, and rewrite ingrained perspectives and beliefs, and that happens most fruitfully through dedication and repetition. We must build our mental endurance for this kind of personal work, and yoga practices are an excellent starting point and container for focusing these efforts.
Try This Body Mindful Yoga Practice
A yoga practice is any activity that guides self-awareness. A body mindful yoga practice adds the dimension of purposefully tuning in to self-talk and intentionally using self-affirming language to change your brain, uplift your mood, and ultimately, improve your sense of self. Body Mindful Yoga includes a variety of mental, physical, auditory, and visual practices designed to help you establish an awareness of your inner dialogue and incorporate body mindful language into your life with the intention of improving self-confidence. Over time and with diligent practice, the kinder words will become more readily accessible, and the less kind words won’t be as quick to show up.
To get started on your body mindful journey, try this next time you are on your mat:
Pause in a pose from time to time and observe your self-talk. Tune in to how your self-talk—positive, negative, and neutral—influences your self-confidence in that exact moment. Also observe how you experience your body. How are you holding your face, eyes, jaw, and shoulders? How does your inner dialogue empower or disempower your physical and mental experience of the pose? Keep a journal of your observations to increase your body mindful awareness and identify patterns that challenge your self-confidence in unhelpful ways.
This body mindful yoga practice is a great first step in cultivating a powerful awareness of how your inner language translates into your mood, posture, and overall wellbeing. It will also give you focused opportunities to practice observing rather than judging yourself, and open you up to exploring new affirming and empowering language to use with yourself and others, both on and off the mat.
See also 8 Poses to Cultivate Courage and Reduce Self-Conciousness
Adapted from the book, Body Mindful Yoga, by Jennifer Kreatsoulas and Robert Butera. Reprinted with permission from Llewellyn Worldwide.
Need to Improve Digestion? Add This Ayurvedic Principle to Your Meal Prep
Set the stage for stronger digestive fire with this essential kitchen practice.
Craving change but feeling too stuck, sluggish, or restless to take aim? Join John Douillard, founder of LifeSpa.com, and Larissa Hall Carlson, Ayurveda Yoga Specialist, for Ayurveda 201: Six Weeks to Transformation and Bliss Through Ayurvedic Psychology. In this new online course, you’ll experience: unique yoga practices; inspiring discussions backed by science; and recipes, herbs, and a short, gentle cleanse. The results? Clarity, brilliance, and balance so you can create lasting shifts in your life and well-being. Learn more and sign up today!
According to Ayurveda, there’s more to optimal digestion than eating for your dosha (constitution) and planning sattvic (pure, balanced) meals. In fact, it starts before you take your first bite. Here, Larissa Hall Carlson, who co-teaches our upcoming course, Ayurveda 201, with John Douillard, reveals the ideal way to prepare your meal.
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The Four Best Shopping Apps Every Yogi Should Use From Now On
Here’s how the yamas and niyamas play into how we shop, plus the best apps to help you buy the most conscious goods.
How do we navigate the modern world while striving to practice our yogic principles? The asana, or movement part, no sweat. Many of us have that down. The yamas (ethical observances) and the niyamas (lifestyle practices), on the other hand, can be a bit elusive, especially with so many choices for consumption. How can we practice more deeply these two essential limbs of yoga in our interconnected and entangled world?
It can become overwhelming to attempt to buy things that are in alignment with our core yogic principles, particularly when we start to consider how our purchases effect the environment, labor conditions, animal rights, the political sphere and more. I wish it was as simple as just buying that t-shirt, soap, chocolate, or pair of yoga pants. Unfortunately, it’s not. We are global citizens—whether we like it or not—and can choose with awareness or turn a blind eye.
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So, how do we become empowered consumers without being overwhelmed by all the effects our choices? Must we research everything we buy? This could take hours and we might not get anywhere. For many of us, buying things can be a bit of a process, and many times with great sacrifice.
How the Yamas and Niyamas Play Into Our Consumerism
Let’s take a look at how the yamas and niyamas are woven in and out of our consumer lives:
Ah, yes. Were any animals harmed in the making of this product? What about the environment impact? Were things made in a clean way? Is it made with toxic ingredients?
How do we engage more fully with our truth? How can we step deeper into the awareness of ourselves, our planet and our values? It can be easy to talk truth, but living it is hard because there is so much hidden behind the veil.
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In many ways this is an easy one. Don’t take what’s not mine without paying for it. Got it. Well, sometimes without even knowing it, our purchases can take from other people’s well-being, the Earth’s natural resources and the health of our bodies.
Another tough one considering there are so many cool things out there. I certainly feel the dopamine rush after a buy. Does it really make me feel better? Do I really need another…?
By considering deeply how my stuff affects me and others, I have become pickier and a bit more minimal. Fewer things that mean more make me feel great. Now, what can I donate?
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So many things that we put into or on our bodies can be loaded with toxins. Which ones do we buy? How do we know if this lotion is toxic, this detergent has chemicals or if these bed sheets are synthetic?
If we really want to pursue this heat generating niyama, we may need to buckle down and get serious; becoming informed takes diligence. Changing when things don’t match up can be even tougher, especially when it is a brand we love. We are disciples to our things and it can be challenging to live by our yogic principles.
By checking out our stuff we can learn about ourselves, what we stand for, and how we are practicing our beliefs. It can be as simple as opening the closet to get a closer look at what’s going on internally. Our external environment is a reflection of our inner landscape.
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Isvara Pranidhana: Connection to Spirit.
By slowing down and centering we can sink deeply into what is meaningful and how to manifest it. This means deciding what has value and then expressing it. What is our authentic expression of spirit? How do we act accordingly?
These principles are a lot to consider, especially since we have so many options. Lucky for us, we can arm ourselves with the power of technology to make fast choices by quickly scanning or searching.
The following four smart phone applications can help you navigate the consumer landscape and live as an authentic, enthusiastic yogi. I’ve found they help bolster and support the contentment (santosha) in my life, too.
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4 Best Shopping Apps for Yogis
“Vote With Your Wallet” is their tagline. Our monetary choices support companies, which may or may not have our values in mind. Certain companies that we may love could have very different political or environmental practices. Giving them money supports their agenda, not necessarily ours. This app allows us to choose which campaigns we support (and which we don’t) and then see how our products match up. Animal testing, social justice, environmental sensitivity and political agendas are just a few of the app’s categories.
2. Good On You
I’ve been a bit “cranky pants” about yoga pants lately. I do like the way they feel, look, and perform—but I’m not so keen on some of the byproducts of the gear. This app has helped me align my values with not only yoga clothing, but clothing in general. I can see how my attire impacts the environment, labor conditions, and animal rights.
3. Healthy Living
This app is developed by the Environmental Working Group (EWG). Their mission: “to empower people to live healthier lives in a healthier environment.” At one time this app was known as Skindeep and focused solely on cosmetics. Now, it is wider in scope, showing us how what we put on or in our bodies can impact our health. It evaluates the toxic load for each of the ingredients and is thorough and empowering.
4. Think Dirty
Think Dirty does the thinking for us by quickly showing the toxic load for everything from toothpaste to eyeliner, baby products to shampoo, cosmetics to laundry detergent. Purity for our bodies doesn’t always mean cleansing; it could simply mean not covering ourselves with toxic ingredients.
About our author
Julian DeVoe is a founding member of the Yoga Collective Nosara, a wellness educator, and author of Robust Vitality and Insights Out. Learn more at juliandevoe.com.
Ariana Grande's Former Violist is a Total Yogi Badass
From Coachella to standard summer vacays, this musician uses yoga to stay rooted, balanced, and calm on the road.
Late last July, a small group of yoga practitioners roamed the bustling hallways of Philadelphia’s Wells Fargo Center looking for a vacant room adequate for a quick asana practice. It was Friday after lunch, and the indoor arena was swarming with crew members feverishly unpacking, assembling, and rigging lighting and sound equipment for the night’s show. In a few hours, nearly 20,000 more people would flood the venue. But for the moment, these musicians just needed to find some peace and quiet.
By 8 p.m., this group of women—Kiara Ana Perico, Desiree Hazley, and Leah Metzler, known to fans as the Wicked Strings—would swap their mats for musical instruments and take the stage as accompaniment for rock band Panic! at the Disco. For the past seven months, the three classically-trained musicians have been accompanying Panic!, led by frontman Brendon Urie, across the country (58 cities with a quick midway stint in the U.K. and Australia) on the Pray For The Wicked tour. But between all-night bus rides, triple-stacked bunk beds, constant time-zone shifts, endless soundchecks, and hectic behind-the-scenes races to hit their stage marks, Kiara Ana Perico, the group’s co-founder and resident violist, has taken it upon herself to guide her tour mates in mindful movement—even when that means taking up residence for an hour in the box of an empty 16-wheeler.
On this particular July day in Philadelphia, the trio had been looking for a room to practice yoga in when they passed by a loading dock populated by a bunch of empty trucks. Along with a crew member and a tour friend, Kala MacDonald (wife of Panic!’s road manager, Zack Hall), the Wicked Strings piled into the back of a big rig and rolled out their mats. Perico lit a candle and some Palo Santo and invited the others to join her on their backs. She moved the group through supine leg stretches, Cat-Cows, hip openers, forward folds, and balancing poses, culminating in a juicy semi-trailer Savasana—the final bit of uninterrupted tranquility before an explosive two-hour stage performance.
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Truck yoga—troga, as Perico’s dubbed it—has become somewhat of a tour staple. Having spent the past five years criss-crossing the globe as a violist for major acts including Adele, Ariana Grande, Justin Bieber, David Foster, and now Panic!, the RYT-200 teacher and longtime student is accustomed to keeping an adaptable practice. “It’s a daily adventure and exercise in flexibility—pun intended,” she says. On this tour alone, she’s practiced asana on stairway landings, in the lounge of the tour bus, in her dressing room, in hallways, and hotel rooms.
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“It’s inspiring to see how disciplined Kiara is while we’re on the road,” says tourmate, Wicked Strings cellist Leah Metzler. “She’s definitely been a positive influence in my life here: Touring can be exhausting, and it would be much easier to mentally check out and watch Netflix, but she knows how much better we’ll feel after doing yoga.” Desiree Hazley, the Wicked Strings’ violinist, also credits yoga flows with improving mental and physical health through the hectic tour commitments: “When we practice, you can feel an uplifting shift toward calm and focus before our shows.”
Research suggests that for touring musicians, yoga is more than just a welcome moment of tranquility. Performers like Perico are at risk for a number of psychological and physical problems such as anxiety and performance-related musculoskeletal issues. String players specifically have been shown to develop work-related orthopedic disorders such as overuse syndrome and compressive neuropathy (think carpal tunnel syndrome) due to the necessary imbalance in posture.
To that effect, Kristen Queen, Interim Director of the School of Music at Texas Christian University and RYT-200 instructor looks to resources like Mia Olson’s Musician’s Yoga: A Guide to Practice, Performance, and Inspiration to guide her Yoga for Musicians college course, a twice-weekly class that integrates breath and alignment to reduce stress on muscles and joints and help students bring awareness to form and function. “Practicing yoga bolsters balance within the body, supports full range of motion in the joints, strengthens the core to support the lower back, and generally helps us be mindful of our bodies when approaching our instruments,” she says.
“Many musicians play asymmetrical instruments, and their bodies adapt to that load in positive and negative ways,” says Seattle-based movement educator and professional classical musician, Kayleigh Miller. “Asana can reveal problems with asymmetry and provide tools to strengthen and mobilize imbalanced areas while enhancing awareness and understanding of the body. Most classical musicians deal with rigorous rehearsal, audition, and performance schedules, and down-regulating the nervous system through breath and mindful movements is essential for maintaining focus and clarity under pressure.”
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I met Perico at New Orleans’ Smoothie King Center arena one uncharacteristically bright and crisp February day, where the Panic! troupe had just rolled in after an all-night drive from an Austin show. It was the second leg of Panic!’s U.S. tour, and temperatures had dipped significantly since the tour kicked off, to say the least. In fact, New Orleans was one of the first cities Perico had seen in the past six weeks that hadn’t been rocked by a frigid “snowpocalypse.” But as a world-traveled performer, Perico is resilient—even in extreme conditions—and unwaveringly committed to her yoga practice.
With post-show bedtimes well after midnight, Perico typically salutes the sun around noon. She does a few morning stretches in her top bunk on the third level of the tour bus, hops down, and if her nine bus mates have already left for the venue, she sets up her mat in “the living room”—a deceptively spacious-sounding term for the compact front of the bus that can be extended by a few feet when parked. Since sleeping in the bunk can be especially crampy for her sides and lower back, side extensions, hip flexor stretches, and lower back massages are a must, she says.
The day we meet in New Orleans, Perico tells me she only had time for a 30-minute flow before greeting me at the venue. We stop for a snack on the bus and then head backstage. “Welcome to the venue!” she says, gesturing toward the mounting commotion as nearly a hundred crew members scurry about, incepting an arena-sized spectacle out of thin air. We head straight to her dressing room, and as Perico repacks her suitcase, I wonder how bandmates Hazley and Metzler will possibly fit into the tiny room with us when they return from souvenir shopping.
Once the women return, we’re off to a quick soundcheck with Panic!’s other band members before an early dinner where we split vegan beignets (doughy and warm and way more delicious than they may sound) and then dash back to the venue. Because barricades and metal detectors are already set up and Panic! fans are swarming the arena, our driver drops us off at the front entrance. We navigate around giddy groups donning t-shirts of frontman Urie’s face, and race to the backstage entrance. No one notices us—in fact, none of the soon-to-be-shrieking fans even seem to realize they’ll be cheering and singing along to my companions in just under two hours.
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Growing up, mindfulness was a constant in the Perico household. Her father meditated for four hours each morning, prompting Perico to establish a regular yoga practice while studying viola performance at Boston University. Tendonitis from misaligned posturing throughout high school and the inevitable imbalance of playing an instrument exclusively on one side meant the young artist had to take extra precautions in college, she says. Knowing long-term injury had the potential to derail her burgeoning career, Perico took to serious self-care. Acupuncture, massages, physical therapy, and yoga “helped me focus my mind, move my body, and return to safe alignment,” she says. Between four-hour viola sessions, Perico stretched and inverted her way toward better circulation in her upper body and strength in her wrists and shoulders.
“Playing music at an elite level requires sophisticated functioning of the physical and psychological systems of the body,” says Bronwen Ackermann, PhD, a musicians’ physiotherapist, musculoskeletal anatomist, and health researcher at Sydney Medical School. Ackermann has worked on numerous studies that demonstrate the injury prevention benefits of physical activities such as yoga for musicians. One such study, a 2012 article published in the BMJ journal, Injury Prevention, found that strengthening and stabilizing areas of the body such as the neck, shoulders, spine, abdominals, and hips may reduces occupational injuries in professional orchestral musicians.
As yoga gradually helped Perico relearn healthier posturing to protect from future damage, the practice also unleashed undeniable psychological and spiritual repercussions. She says her practice is what has supported and sustained her through the past decade’s extreme highs (playing sold-out arenas) and devastating lows (unexpectedly losing her father last year). “I really had to work on finding a sense of home within myself,” she says. “I think once I figured that out, I was more prone to being at peace in my everyday life.”
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Perico moved to Los Angeles in 2012 to try and make it big in an infamously unforgiving industry. Almost immediately, the hustle and constantly in-the-car culture began to take its toll. “I felt terrible,” she says. Once again, yoga helped her find her way. “I started practicing every morning at Runyon Canyon park in the middle of LA,” she says. “That really pulled me into grounding, and I immediately started meeting really beautiful, like-minded, soulful people.”
Once she laid down roots, her career soared, starting with an overseas opportunity that led to one international tour after another. “Producers who told me it takes a few years to get settled in LA were totally right,” she says. In 2012, she met Hazley, Metzler, and violinist Molly Rogers when they accompanied Japanese rock star, Yoshiki, on an international tour. The foursome went on to form the orchestral-pop troupe Orchid Quartet, performing alongside recording artists like Morgxn (Rogers has been working on other projects while the others perform as The Wicked Strings, but they reunite as their schedules allow). In 2015, Perico accompanied Ariana Grande on the Honeymoon Tour, and in 2016, Adele came calling. Through all of it, Perico kept a strong yoga practice, building on it and thinking about yoga teacher training. In October 2017, just before the Panic! tour kicked off in July, 2018 Perico completed her 200-hour certification at YogaWorks in Santa Monica, CA. Today, when she’s not touring with some of the industry’s biggest acts, she teaches studio and private classes in Southern California.
After Panic! wraps its European tour, Perico will head to Bali to complete her RYT-500 training and hopes to one day offer workshops to fellow musicians—she knows firsthand how much havoc the postures of professional playing can wreak. Right now, it’s hard to imagine when she’ll find time to add “workshop leader” to her list of credentials, but for now, she’ll continue prioritizing her practice — even if it’s a little hard to predict where her journey will take her or how much time she’ll have to herself along the way. “Meditation, yoga, and the cultivation of inner peace are absolutely the reasons I’m not spinning out all the time from the chaos around me,” she says. “Of course I get homesick, feel lost, lose my sense of grounding but the ability to reign it all back into reality and my inner sense of home has made all the difference.”
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