From job interviews to presentations, a healthy dose of confidence is important to success. Yoga teacher and life coach Tracy Johnson shares how yoga can help.
I see many people for coaching sessions related to workplace and career issues as part of my wellness practice. As well as the usual and understandable worries we all have about presentations, big sales pitches and job interviews, many people also have to raise their confidence game when dealing with challenging colleagues or contractors, asking for a pay rise, or dealing with office culture issues such as ‘presenteeism’ and feeling unable to leave the office on time without worrying about how it looks to their works-all-hours manager. Asking confidently for what we need at work and being able to stand our ground while negotiating are essential professional skills and, of course, our yoga practice has plenty to offer to help us develop our assertiveness and poise!
1. Get grounded
Just a short yoga practice before work (have a look on Movement for Modern Life) can set you up mentally for a day when you need extra confidence, as well as offloading excess adrenaline that can make us feel jittery and unsettled. This is an ideal time to focus on grounding poses that stimulate the root chakra, muladhara, to help us find stability. Poses to practise include balances such as tree, which is perfect in terms of visualising ourselves rooted firmly and able to bend without breaking, as well as child’s pose if we feel particularly stressed and needing to reconnect with ourselves. If we need a bigger boost of confidence and energy, then flying into an arm balance such as crow can help us feel strong and capable of soaring above all challenges, no matter what the working day has to offer.
2. Rock your warrior
Needing more oomph? Time to get a warrior sequence going to really build our confidence! We can work with warrior poses in different ways for a variety of effects. Long holds for ten to twenty breaths in warrior one and two can test our endurance as lactic acid builds in the muscles; it’s a great lesson to take off the mat in learning to sit with discomfort and not overreact to stress. We can also switch up our warrior sequence, moving from warrior one to two to three and back again, matching one breath to one movement to test our balance and to take our minds off everything except our body in motion. It’s a wonderfully active mindfulness exercise, and those big, proud, chest-opening movements should instil plenty of confidence in advance of a tough day.
If working our body feels like the right thing to do to rather than a slower, more grounding practice, then we can connect those warrior poses together with vinyasas – those sweeping, folding and lunging movements can really get our heart rate going, especially when we add jump-backs and jump-throughs. This more dynamic movement is great for offsetting stress hormones and, because we can really flow, we lose ourselves in physical activity and forget those workplace concerns for a while.
3. Meditation and visualisation
If we need to calm things down, then bringing ourselves to stillness with focus on the breath is a soothing way to manage work stress and build inner confidence. Taking as little as ten minutes in the morning or when we get home to ‘sign off’ your day can make a huge difference to our mood and attitude. Meditation doesn’t have to be complicated. One of the easiest techniques is simply to inhale and exhale, count one, inhale and exhale, count two, continuing up to ten and then starting over. It helps to bring the mind back to the count when our thoughts run away in different directions, and it really doesn’t matter if we end up at fourteen or even twenty. Just breathe and start over to clear the head and calm the nervous system.
If we have something particularly nerve-wracking like giving a presentation ahead of us, then we can steal a tip from top performance athletes – visualisation. Begin as if meditating, getting settled and focusing on the breath, and then run through the planned presentation from start to finish, thinking about all the details and getting everything absolutely right. When we present for real, the brain thinks it has done the work before and the whole experience can run much more smoothly.
On those challenging days at the office, we need to step back, think about what we really need to boost our confidence, and then just pick a practice to give ourselves a boost!
>> TRY OUR YOGA FOR WORK SERIES >>
This post was written by Tracy Johnson, the founder of Brainbox Coaching and Empower Yoga Bristol. She trained under Sally Parkes and is a 200 hour RYT with Yoga Alliance. Tracy blends her yoga teaching with confidence coaching and stress management to create a holistic practice, and runs her classes with warmth and humour. She is the author of a careers guide, Working in Science, co-author of The Coaching Gurus, and writes for publications such as OM Yoga Magazine, Globe of Love, Happiness+Wellbeing, MindBodyGreen and has been featured in the Guardian, Body Fit magazine, the Bristol Post and Cardiff Life. She is also a career and confidence coach, self-defence instructor and an Integrative Nutrition Health Coach, and is currently writing a book combining yoga with her coaching techniques for stress management. Follow Tracy on Twitter.