The Power of Positive Affirmations
Setting an intention as part of your yoga practice
You may be asking ‘what exactly is an affirmation?’. Simply put an affirmation is anything you say or think and forms part of your internal dialogue. There are times in which we can find ourselves stuck in a loop of negative affirmations which then form part of our habitual thinking. For example, do you ever ask ‘Do I look fat in this?’ even when you don’t think you do. But so ingrained in your daily routine is the thought, that the words pass your lips without you really thinking about them.
If someone were to ask you how you were, how would you respond? The answer of ‘I’m fine’ or “I’m okay” is our stock response but what would it do to your mood if you answered with “I’m great!” or “I’m fantastic!”. Consider the impact of swapping neutral words for supercharged positive words on your overall wellbeing.
Positive affirmations can take on a few different guises in yoga. Some yoga classes begin and end with mantras which may be chanted or sung and in other classes you may be asked to set an intention for your practice. The latter is something I like to adopt and encourage my students to explore. There have been times when something or someone has posed a particular challenge for me and in dedicating my yoga practice to that person or situation it has helped me to come to see the challenge in a different way, dispelling the negative energy (somewhat… after all no one’s perfect).
Do Positive Affirmations Work?
There has been much debate regarding the success of positive affirmations. Celebrities such as Jim Carey have attributed their successes to the power of positive thought. Ask the universe for what you want and you will receive it. Write your wishes down on a piece of paper, carry it with you and your wish will come true. Repeat the words ‘I am beautiful’ every day and eventually you’ll believe them. But what if the universe doesn’t grant you your heart’s desire, your wishes don’t come true and you still don’t see yourself as beautiful? Is that then to say that positive affirmations are redundant?
There is a suggestion that reframing the affirmations from self statements such as “I will succeed” to interrogative self-talk such “will I succeed” greatly improves our chances of success. A study (by Senay, Albarracin & Noguchi, 2010) found that asking ourselves questions was far more effective than telling ourselves something when looking for a positive result. This is in part because when we question ourselves we acknowledge our negative thoughts rather than dismissing them but also acknowledge that we often have the resources we need to solve the problem at our disposal.
Common Yoga Affirmations
With this in mind we can make tweaks to some common yoga affirmations so that they are reframed as questions:
- “I feel connected” to “Do I feel connected?”
- “My mind is relaxed and clear” to “Can I clear my mind so that it is relaxed and clear?”
- “I am love” to “How do I show love?”
- “Everything I need is already within me” to “Can I find everything I need within me?”
- “I will let go” to “Can I let go?
So, while your wellbeing doesn’t hinge on positive affirmations, self enquiry or a regular yoga practice, all three can contribute in some measure to a more positive outlook. Mindful self enquiry can translate your yoga practice off your mat, beyond yoga asana and into your life.