Overcoming Negative Self-Talk Through Mindful Yoga

Overcoming Negative Self-Talk Through Mindful Yoga

What a strange day. Nothingness. Yesterday, I was engulfed by a sense of personal nothingness - if that makes sense. This morning, I opened my eyes to find that same 'black hole in the stomach' feeling lingering, my silent companion in the dawn's early light. 

In these moments, when the weight of negativity threatens to take over, I remember: I have an anchor. Yoga. I literally fall out of bed and onto my yoga mat. It's not graceful, it's not Instagram-worthy, but it's real. It's my lifeline.

As I sit here, legs crossed on my yoga mat, I can't help but reflect on the journey that brought me to this moment. Not long ago, I found myself trapped in a cycle of negative self-talk, my mind a constant battlefield of self-doubt and criticism. It's time to do something about that. 

The first step is to become aware of the negative self-talk flooding my mind. Notice what's going on without becoming trapped in it.

Mindfulness quotes today I choose the perfect peace
Photo: from a book I found in a tiny guest house on the Big Island, Hawaii

Take me to:

  1. Understanding Negative Self-Talk
  2. The Power of Yoga in Reframing Negative Self-Talk
  3. Specific Yoga Poses for Overcoming Negative Self-Talk
  4. A Complete Yoga Sequence for Self-Compassion
  5. Meditation for Self-Compassion (Metta)

Understanding Negative Self-Talk

Negative self-talk is that persistent inner critic that tells us we're not good enough, smart enough, or worthy enough. Neuroscience says we're biologically wired to default to negativity as it helped us spot a threat and survive for thousands of years.

It's a habit many of us fall into, often without realizing it. This internal dialogue can significantly impact our mental and physical well-being, affecting everything from our self-esteem to our daily performance.

The Power of Yoga in Reframing Negative Self-Talk

Yoga offers a unique approach to addressing negative self-talk. By combining physical postures, breath work, and mindfulness, yoga creates a powerful mind-body connection.

This connection allows us to observe our thoughts without judgment, creating space between ourselves and our negative inner dialogue. It helps to stop being at war with yourself.

As Dr. Timothy McCall, author of "Yoga as Medicine," puts it, "Yoga helps us witness our thoughts rather than being caught up in them." This ability to step back and observe is the first step in changing our patterns of thinking.

Related: Three science-supported tools to break free from negativity and retrain your brain

Viktor Frankl quote
Photo: Trilogy Sanctuary in San Diego

Specific Yoga Poses for Overcoming Negative Self-Talk

Let's explore some yoga poses that can be particularly effective in combating negative self-talk:

Heart-Opening Poses

Cobra Pose (Bhujangasana)

cobra pose-bhujangasana-hatha-yoga
  • Lie face down on the mat, place hands under shoulders
  • Lift chest, keeping lower ribs on the mat, look forward or soft gaze down
  • Hold for 5-10 breaths. 

This pose is a gentle backbend that expands the chest and opens the heart. It signals your nervous system "you're safe now" and helps to turn on your restorative, battery-charging mode.

Bridge Pose (Setu Bandha)

Bridge pose hatha yoga
  • Lie comfortably on your back, knees bent
  • Press your feet into the floor, lifting your hips towards the sky
  • Interlace your fingers and push your hands into the floor to lift your bridge a little higher, or keep your palms flat and keep a neutral bridge.
  • For more relaxation, place a yoga block to support your lower back and let it hold the weight of your bridge completely, arms resting on the floor. 
  • Hold for about a minute

Bridge Pose is a fantastic backbend that opens the chest, strengthens the spine, and stimulates the thyroid. It can help alleviate stress and anxiety, making it particularly beneficial for combating negative self-talk.

Grounding Poses

Mountain Pose (Tadasana)

Mountain pose tadasana in Hatha Yoga

Stand with feet hip-width apart, feeling the steadiness of this posture
Root down through all four corners of your feet
Lengthen spine, relax shoulders
Hold for 5-10 breaths

Mountain pose helps us feel stable and centered, a physical reminder of our inner strength.

Empowering Poses

Warrior II (Virabhadrasana II) - a Yogic version of the Superman pose

Warrior two pose in hatha yoga
Warrior two pose hatha yoga
  • Step feet wide apart, turn right foot out 90 degrees
  • Bend right knee over ankle, extend arms
  • Gaze over right fingertips
  • Hold for a minute, then switch sides

Warrior poses build confidence and inner power, reinforcing your sense of agency and shaking off negative self-perceptions.

Balancing Poses: Finding Stability in Uncertainty

After connecting with our sense of strength with empowering poses, we move to balancing poses. These asanas are powerful metaphors for life – they teach us to find stability amidst chaos and to maintain inner peace in challenging and stressful situations.

Vrksasana tree pose hatha yoga
tree pose hatha yoga

Tree Pose (Vrksasana)

Tree Pose is an excellent balancing posture that embodies the essence of self-compassion. It is one of my favorite poses and when you have the time for only one yoga asana - do this one for a quick reset!

As you stand on one leg, rooting down through your foot while reaching up through your arms, you're practicing both stability and growth.

  • Stand tall on your left foot, grounding down through all four corners. Feel the steadiness of the surface beneath you.
  • Place your right foot on your left ankle, calf, or inner thigh (avoid the knee).
  • Bring hands to heart center or reach overhead; fix your gaze on a steady point in front of you.
  • Hold for 5-10 breaths, embracing wobbles with kindness; switch sides.

Calming Poses

After energizing and balancing our bodies, we transition to calming poses to soothe our nervous system and integrate positive changes from the practice.

Child's pose Balasana

Child's Pose (Balasana)

  • Come down to all fours on your mat keeping your knees hip-width, big toes touching.
  • Slowly lower your torso between your knees.
  • Rest the arms in front of you or by your sides, forming a gentle circle around yourself, holding yourself literally and figuratively speaking.
  • Rest and hold for a few minutes. 

Child's pose provides a sense of safety and nurturing, countering self-critical thoughts.

A Complete Yoga Sequence for Self-Compassion

Here's a 40-minute yoga ritual designed to foster self-compassion and turn negative self-talk into a moment of self-care.

Before you begin, survey your surroundings and use small touches to transform the space into a peaceful sanctuary—your personal oasis for rest and rejuvenation. For daytime sessions, consider partially closing the shades to create a softer, more subdued ambiance.

sunset view meditation room

The Ambiance

Some of my favorite ways to instantly transport myself into that peaceful place:

  • Set the mood by lighting a scented candle or incense.
  • Have a cozy blanket and eye mask at the ready for your final savasana.
  • For an added touch of self care, dab a few drops of your favorite essential oil on your wrists or temples, infusing the air with a personalized aromatherapy experience.
  • Complete your self-care ritual by preparing a soothing cup of your favorite herbal tea to sip & savor after your practice (we love the energizing blend of ginger honey lemon tea.)

The Practice

  • Setting intention: (2-3 minutes) Settle into a comfortable cross-legged position on your yoga mat. Take a moment to observe your breath, allowing it to naturally flow in and out.
Easy pose - Sukhasana cross legged position - hatha yoga
Photo: Sukhasana or Easy Pose


Now, set your intention for the practice—a brief, positive affirmation that resonates with you. Consider phrases such as:

"I am enough"

"May I be well and cared for"

"I am safe and supported by life"

  • Sun Salutations (5 minutes): let's invite a little movement to warm the body with 2-3 rounds of sun salutations.
  • Grounding and empowering standing poses (10 minutes): Mountain pose, Warrior I, Warrior II, Triangle pose.
  • Balancing poses (5 minutes): Tree pose, Eagle pose
  • Heart opening poses (5 minutes): Bridge pose, Cobra Pose
  • Calming seated poses (5 minutes): Pigeon pose, Child's pose
  • Final relaxation (10 minutes): Savasana

Throughout the practice, focus on your breath and let your intention anchor your mind, gently returning to the affirmation whenever your mind wanders. Remember, this is your time and your ritual to nurture your body and soul.

Related: Best sustainable yoga mats to elevate your yoga practice

The Art of Banksy private collection
Photo: Banksy Exhibition Tour, Unauthorized private collection

Final Thoughts

When you are going through hard times, remember to stay kind to yourself and others around you - no matter what - a lesson I learned through personal struggle. In this spirit, I'd like to share an excerpt from the Loving Kindness Meditation (Mettā Bhāvanā), traditionally taught on the final day of a 10-day course of Vipassana meditation.This practice serves as a soothing balm for the heart and grows your capacity for love and kindness after what's often described as an "open surgery on the mind" during these silent retreats:

May you be happy
May you be healthy
May you be safe
May you live with ease

Try Loving Kindness Meditation after this self compassion yoga sequence.

If you're navigating difficult times, I encourage you to try this practice. I can attest that the combination of yoga and meditation has the power to transform your perspective and nurture inner peace. This too shall pass...

Nice touches to elevate your meditation or yoga space

 

Lavender candle
Big Hug Lavender Candle
Tibetan singing bowl
Handcrafted Tibetan Singing Bowl

 VIEW ON AMAZON 

Saje Peppermint Halo Roll-on
Saje Peppermint Halo Roll-On
DoTerra Breathe Essential Oil
DoTerra Breathe Essential Oil

 VIEW ON AMAZON 

Saje travel size oil diffuser
Saje Oil Diffuser Mini

 VIEW ON AMAZON 

Rishi Soothing Valerian Dream tea
Rishi Valerian Dream Tea

 VIEW ON AMAZON 

 

Mindfulness quote falling in love

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