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Yoga to Build Willpower

Shareen Woodford

Willpower is the mother of all virtues. It is one of the single best predictors of happiness, health, and success. With willpower comes confidence, and having confidence in a task can be a self-fulfilling prophecy. When we are confident that we can achieve something, we are much more likely to actually achieve it. Our third chakra, the manipura chakra, is home to both willpower and confidence. It is housed in the solar plexus area, between the navel and the sternum. When we energize, or bring prana into this center of power in the subtle body by way of particular yoga postures, we can actually improve our willpower and increase our confidence much in the same way that we strengthen a muscle. When we send energy and attention to our manipura chakra, we increase our selfesteem, make better decisions, feel empowered, control our actions by means of self-discipline, take responsibility and in all of these ways, we enable ourselves to better realize our life purpose and goals.

Manipura means “jeweled city.” When we discover this place within ourselves we are showered with jewels and treasures from the inside. We can learn to find power and energy from within ourselves so we no longer have to rely on outside sources of energy like coffee or sugar, which actually deplete our energy in the long run. This chakra is represented by the element of fire, so when we illuminate the manipura chakra we light our own internal fire, burning away fears, insecurities, weak will and passivity. This chakra is associated with activity, volition, strength, self-definition, and setting intentions.

This yoga sequence will help you overcome inertia, break old habits and patterns, evolve and move upwards. These postures will energize your third chakra, helping you find all of the jewels that are inside of you, including your talents, your strengths, your truest desires and your highest intentions, and give you the energy to act on them so you can create any transformation in yourself or your life that you may want. Your will creates your future. Don’t forget that fire needs air to burn, so a strong steady breath with gentle sound coming from the throat will help to ignite the power in your manipura chakra during this asana practice. Aim to hold each posture for ten breaths if possible. You may need to gradually work up to ten. Just start with what you are capable of now, and keep practicing.

Warrior 1 (Virabhadrasana 1)

BENEFITS: This posture helps you align your spine and pelvis while strengthening and stretching the legs. Your psoas muscle and abdomen are also lengthened which encourages digestion and circulation. Practicing a warrior pose can inspire you to take on the traits of a warrior and become more noble, strong-minded, and courageous.

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Photographer: Dahila Katz

You may wish to first warm up your body with a few of your favourite sun salutations. When you are ready, from downward dog step your right foot between your hands and pivot your back heel in and down to the ground so that your back toes point out at forty-five degrees. Bend your front knee to ninety degrees so that the knee is aligned right on top of your ankle. Rise up and stack your shoulders over your hips. Extend your arms overhead with palms pressed together and arms straight. Try to square your hips and your shoulders forward to the front of your mat as much as possible. Look up at your thumbs. After 10 breaths press your hands flat on the ground beside your front foot and step back into downward dog. Repeat with the left leg.

Plank Pose (Utthita Chatturanga Dandasana)

BENEFITS: Strengthens your entire body, especially abdominal muscles and organs which stimulate digestion. It requires core strength which will improve your posture and can relieve back pain. This posture also develops focus, determination and awareness.

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From downward dog bring your shoulders forward and stack them directly over your wrists with straight arms. Create a straight line through your body from heels to crown of head. Lift the backs of the knees to straighten the legs. Lift the navel up to the spine to engage your core muscles. Press your chest up away from the ground. Look to the front of your yoga mat.

Cobra Pose (Bhujangasana)

BENEFITS: This posture strengthens the back of your body and lengthens the front of your body. It stretches your abdomen and stimulates your internal organs and improves digestion. It is also a heart opener, which is important when we are focusing on developing strength, since strength without compassion can become dangerous power.

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From plank pose lower your body down flat onto the ground. With bent arms place your hands flat on the ground beside the low rib cage. Slowly press into your hands and draw your chest forward and up as high as feels good for your back while pulling the shoulders down and back away from your ears. Draw your low abdomen in firmly and try to soften your glutes (don’t clench your rear end). Keep your neck in line with the rest of your spine and gaze softly down at the floor in front of you. When ready, curl your toes under and press back into downward dog.

Seated Spinal Twist (Marichasana C, variation)

BENEFITS: This twist increases the overall energy flow in your body, especially along the entire length of your spine. Your abdomen is massaged and wrung out like a sponge which cleanses your internal organs and improves your digestion and elimination processes.

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From downward dog, step or jump to a seated position. Keeping your left leg straight in front of you bend your right knee and draw the right heel all the way to the outer edge of your right hip. Bring the left elbow to the outside of your right knee, twisting at the waist. Open your shoulders and chest and turn your head to the right and gaze over your right shoulder. Your left hand is on the ground behind you to help straighten the spine upwards. Repeat on the other side.

Boat Pose (Navasana)

BENEFITS: Boat pose will certainly test your willpower and will help you develop it more through practice. Physically, the pose will strengthen your core muscles and energize your abdominal organs. Maintaining a calm breath, aim to stay in the pose for a few more breaths beyond your comfort level in order to make yourself more a resolute and disciplined person.

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From a seated position lift your legs off the ground until the toes are about the height of your eyes. Keep your legs as straight as possible and point your feet. Keep your knees tightly together. Bring your arms parallel to the ground and to each other, with palms facing inwards. Straighten your back by lifting your chest up and squeezing the shoulder blades together on your back. Draw in your low abdomen firmly and lift up your deep pelvic muscles. Relax your face and your neck. After this posture, lay down on your back and take rest for a few minutes.

In addition to this yoga sequence, you can illuminate your manipura chakra and create willpower in other ways as well. Confidence and self-esteem can be fostered by getting moving and creating momentum with any physical activity or exercise (how about walking?!), breathing deeply, allowing yourself to try new things and make mistakes, meditating on the color yellow, chanting the seed syllable “RAM,” laughing, making choices and taking risks. Believe it or not, eating also creates willpower. There is scientific research telling us that having healthy levels of glucose in our body increases our willpower. So, after you practice this yoga sequence, make yourself a healthy snack and set in motion the plans for creating your future.

Will-Power7Shareen Woodford is the director of local and international yoga teacher training programs. Having studied philosophy, psychology, religion and Sanskrit at the University of Toronto as well as in India, she offers her students much more than just asana training. She passionately practices and encourages her students to learn all of the eight limbs of yoga. www.manayoga.ca

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