Yoga for Empowerment: Why it Works & How to Do It

I’ve noticed that almost everyone cycles through feelings in their lives, periods of being on top of the world, times of major growth, and those periods where you feel inadequate and defeated. This got me thinking, is yoga empowerment a real thing and, if so, how can we use yoga to find more inner-power?

In multiple studies, yoga has been found to lead to greater feelings of self-worth and body positivity. Through the act of doing yoga poses themselves, including common poses such as mountain pose, or Tadasana, combined with yogic breathing and meditative practice, our brains can be trained to make feel more empowered and have more self-acceptance.

The science speaks for itself and I have included that below, along with online yoga practices you can begin today that will bring you greater feelings of empowerment and self-love, so keep reading!


*Advertising and Affiliate Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links and if you go through them to make a purchase I will earn a commission. The decision is yours, and whether or not you decide to buy something is completely up to you.



Yoga Empowerment: Does it Work?

A yoga class doing Warrior 1

We can talk about using yoga for empowerment all day long, but what I am most interested in is, will it ACTUALLY make me feel more empowered, or is it just blowing smoke?

Bring on the science!

When I went digging, I was actually surprised to find multiple studies on this exact question.

In one study, the affects of a 12-week Hatha yoga program on middle aged women noted that at the conclusion of the experiment there were significant positive increases in how the women reported their own “physical competence of physical self-worth, body conditioning, and physical strength; and physical acceptance” (Junkin, 2007)

Similar conclusions were drawn in a similar study involving yoga teen girls where after just 5 days of practicing the girls reported greater feelings of self-esteem. (Sethi, 2013)

The study I came across published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology that I personally found to be the most interesting looked at how empowered people felt after doing yoga poses compared to simply using “power poses” intended to make you look more dominant to others, such as standing tall, legs apart with your fists on your hips.

Mountain pose, upward salute (a mountain pose variation with arms up), and eagle pose were the yoga postures used in the study.

The results were astounding, and I will let the authors speak for themselves:

“”The results of the present study suggest that momentarily performing standing yoga poses […] in comparison to ‘high’ and ‘low power poses’ […] improved state self-esteem through increasing the subjective sense of energy and empowerment: feeling in control, in power, energetic and empowered. 

Golgec de Valva, Lantos, and Bowden

They went on to add “the current findings suggest that momentarily performing standing yoga poses (in comparison to other standing and seated body postures) increases subjective sense of energy which in turn increases positive self-view.” (Golgec de Valva, 2013)

Why yoga makes us feel empowered

Yoga class doing tree pose and yoga for empowerment

Again, to answer this question I wanted to rely on more than my own hunches and ideas.

The question of how yoga and meditation change our bodies has been researched, so I went looking and found the exact answers I was looking for!

A fascinating study published in the Hindawi science journal investigated how effective yoga and meditation are in improving the mental health of people who have endured serious trauma, war, severe natural disaster events, and incarceration.

One finding was similar to what common sense already told us, that “learning yoga can help a person regain their sense of being in control of their lives, as well as increase their self-dependence.” (Telles, 2012)

This partly explains how yoga makes you feel more empowered.

But, in the study they wanted to know HOW yoga and meditation changes our mental state for the better, and they uncovered some interesting answers.

Researchers were able to find a relationship between mindful practice, such as meditation and moving meditation, similar to yoga, and an increase in reported positive feelings and an increase in both serotonin and dopamine levels.

In addition, the article explained that an increase in GABA neurotransmitter levels correlated with a reported increase in mood, and that when GABA levels were tested in yogis following a yoga practice, they had 27% higher GABA neurotransmitter levels than those who didn’t practice. (Telles, 2012)

Meditation class

Yoga and meditation improve mood and can improve our lives, including making us feel more empowered, in part because they cause chemical changes in our bodies that lead to more positive feelings.

Boom.

There is the nitty-gritty science, but we can add our own life experiences to this, and that of yogis everywhere.

The reason we can all connect with this feeling of empowerment so easily after practicing is that yoga offers us a sense of liberation through awareness of self.

You may not immediately think of the word “empowered” when you think of yoga styles such as restorative or yin, but mindfulness is very much a part of all yoga, and with that, comes liberation of, and from, the self.

Empowerment is defined as the authority or power given to someone to do something.

But does empowerment have to be given to us?

What makes yoga empowering is the fact that we give that empowerment to ourselves.

Feeling empowered can mean that we feel confident, stronger, in control, enthusiastic, and more energetic.

It also can mean “putting power into.”

The act of arriving at a yoga class or stepping on our mats is, in itself, empowering because, for one, it is a personal choice that we are making to better ourselves.

Then when we are practicing, the real work and transformation begin.

We can learn empowerment through the act of doing poses.

Through yoga, YOU are choosing:

  1. what you pose you do
  2. your expression of the pose
  3. how far to stretch yourself
  4. your modification of it
  5. your thoughts while doing it
  6. if at home, how long to hold it
  7. how you breathe during it

The more you practice, the more the power of choice and individualism ignite in all other areas of your life off the mat.

Woman in downward dog in her home

Over time, you may start to notice that you are distancing yourself from negative people, places, or situations, and starting to make more choices that align with your authentic spirit and the life you see for yourself, and that, my friends, is empowerment. 

Also, we can feel more empowered during and after practice because yoga makes us feel strong.

Yoga is a form of exercise that works all muscles of the body due to the all-powerful resistance of gravity.

So needless to say, yoga can make us feel like indestructible beings, with the posture to boot.

When we are in our poses, we are stabilizing our core by playing with balance and building endurance by performing a mix of static and dynamic movements.

Building muscle this way by using our body weight is empowering in and of itself. 

Not to mention, the grace we exude and the release we experience while flowing and breathing through the sequence.

So, let’s get to it!

Empowering Yoga Poses for Beginners

All levels of yogis can experience empowerment through various yoga poses, but here are some we will focus on for empowerment today.

Prior to your practice, set the intention that you are going to explore inner-power and self-love, and keep that intention in every movement, every transition, and every pose.

Tree Pose

Woman on a dock in front of a lake doing tree pose for yoga empowerment

-Ground yourself in mountain pose, and then challenge yourself by adding a balance element by moving into tree pose.

-Find a sense of empowerment as you ground and balance on one foot, head held high, shoulders back.

Cobra Pose

Woman in a yoga studio in cobra pose

-One familiar pose that you will see in your beginner sun salutations is Bhujangasana or Cobra Pose, which is one pose that is very easily modified by merely choosing how far you bend via the extension of your arms.

-Cobra pose allows us to lead with our heart and focus our gaze, or drishti, ahead.

Camel Pose

Woman on a beach doing camel for for yoga empowerment

-Camel Pose will feel intense for many, but the fact that you are grounded and supported by your legs makes it a good pose for beginners.

-This pose, too, can be modified by how far down you place your hands; keeping your hands on your lower back is a safe place to start.

Woman in a yoga studio doing a camel pose modification

Hero’s Pose

Woman in a yoga studio in hero's pose doing yoga for empowerment

-When you are seated this way in hero’s pose, with your hands in prayer position at your heart and gaze lowered, it invites you to look inward and connect with your authenticity.

Warrior 1

Woman on a dock next to a lake doing Warrior 1 pose for yoga empowerment

-Let’s not forget about Warrior poses. With a name such as that, there is sure to be confidence to follow.

-One of the first poses a beginner yogi will learn is Warrior 1; in fact, the entire Virabhadrasana series is suitable for beginners.

-In Virabhadrasana 1, we learn the power of grounding ourselves and how focusing on balance aides us in staying present.

Warrior 2

Woman in a yoga studio in Warrior 2 pose doing yoga for empowerment

-Then we move from here to Virabhadrasana II, where we begin to reach and lunge forward, helping us to see the importance of humility, and moving forward in life only once we have accepted its lessons.

Challenging Empowering Yoga Poses

Only move on to more challenging poses when you feel ready. If you get to this point, take a moment to realize how far you and come.

Warrior 3

Woman on a dock next to a lake in Warrior 3 pose doing yoga for empowerment

-Virabhadrasana translates as “fierce warrior,” and once you feel more experienced or comfortable, you can continue with Warrior 3.

-While Warrior 3 can be practiced with hands grounded (usually on blocks) by beginner yogis, the state of being empowered here comes more from fully embracing the balancing aspect of the pose.

-The grounded leg keeps us secure, and the outstretched arms and extended leg invite us to unite both our past and future.

-Warrior 3 is where everything essentially comes together, between the balance and grounding keeping us present and our limbs bringing awareness to both our past and future.

Crescent Lunge

Woman in crescent lunge yoga pose

-Similarly, Anjaneyasana, or crescent lunge, keeps us grounded as it stretches the entire body.

-If you’ve ever wondered why you felt a little irritated over your instructor keeping you in this pose for just a moment too long, that’s because crescent pose is working every muscle in the body.

-It is okay to feel this way, but don’t give up.

-They say that the time you think you need to exit a pose is precisely when you should stay in it (unless you are feeling pain), because this is where the magic happens, and this is empowerment itself rushing through your veins. 

Shoulder Stand

Woman in a yoga studio holding a shoulder stand

-Holding your legs steady, feet raised to the sky, can bring a sense of power and gratitude for life.

-There is a reason why many experienced yogis feel it is vital to hold inverted stands like this often and for long periods of time.

Meditation for Empowerment 

A meditation class

Empowerment does not always have to look powerful, though.

Meditation is less vigorous than yoga as it is traditionally performed in a seated position, but don’t let the seemingly peaceful means to the mindfulness fool you; meditation is a powerful tool for the mind, body, and spirit.

First and foremost, during meditation, we focus on the breath entering and leaving the body, which is an effective way to help us notice when thoughts are working their way in as well.

By bringing awareness to our thoughts, we improve our levels of focus and presence in all areas of our lives.

I’m not sure I know anyone who would deny that the ability to truly be present in life and be there for yourself and others is anything short of empowering.

Additionally, even just by understanding this idea that we can be more aware of ourselves and our thoughts means we can also understand that we carry the power to choose those thoughts.

Through meditation, we can understand ourselves better by connecting to our pain and, equally, our joy.

We can also lead more stress-free lives, which means more time to take control of our lives and follow our unique path.

Meditation videos for empowerment

If you prefer guided meditations, YouTube offers several videos that focus on empowerment.

10-minute empowerment meditation

I must include one from my go-to meditation YouTube channel, The Honest Guys. They do not disappoint with this 10-minute grounding and empowering meditation.

30-minute meditation for empowerment

The Great Meditation YouTube channel offers this fantastic, relaxing 30-minute meditation aimed at rewriting your belief system to a more empowering one.

YouTube Yoga Videos for Empowerment

YouTube gifts us with some free yoga practices focused square on empowerment! I have sourced some good ones that you can do no matter how much time you have to spare!

15-minute yoga empowerment

Cat Meffen offers this fantastic 15-minute yoga practice for empowerment.

30-minute yoga practice for empowerment

Yoga with Adriene offers a 30 minute practice that will leave you with lots of self-love and appreciation!

45-minute empowering yoga

Heart Alchemy Yoga with Michelle Goldstein offers a 45-minute yoga flow to leave you feeling strong and powerful!

1-hour yoga empowerment practice

If you have a little more time, this hour-long, gentle, empowering yoga flow from CorePower Yoga will leave your body feeling amazing and your mind feeling empowered!

Take it Up a Notch

If you like the idea of doing yoga for empowerment online, but don’t love wasting time scrolling endlessly through YouTube to find decent videos, I can do you a solid.

5-Class yoga for empowerment banner from YogaDownload

Find class and programs teaching every kind of yoga you can think of, with several classes focused on empowerment yoga taught by world-class yoga instructors at YogaDownload, including the 5-Class Empowerment Flow Program taught by Jackie Casal Mahrou!

Jackie Casal Mahrou for YogaDownload
Jackie Casal Mahrou

Click here to visit YogaDownload and see their super affordable subscription packages.

Whether through the practice of meditation or yoga, when we become mindful beings, we gain the knowledge of self that leads to the self-love and confidence we need to live our fullest lives and harness our authentic sense of empowerment.

Thank you for reading, and take care!

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RESOURCES:

Junkin, S. E. (2007). Yoga and Self-Esteem: Exploring Change in Middle-Aged Women (Master’s thesis, University of Saskatchewan, 2007). Saskatoon: Https://www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/obj/s4/f2/dsk3/SSU/TC-SSU-08212007141754.pdf.

Sethi, J. K., Nagendra, H. R., & Sham Ganpat, T. (2013). Yoga improves attention and self-esteem in underprivileged girl student. Journal of education and health promotion2, 55. https://doi.org/10.4103/2277-9531.119043

Zavala, A. G., Lantos, D., & Bowden, D. (2018). Corrigendum: Yoga Poses Increase Subjective Energy and State Self-Esteem in Comparison to ‘Power Poses’. Frontiers in Psychology, 9. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2018.00149

Telles, S., Singh, N., & Balkrishna, A. (2012). Managing Mental Health Disorders Resulting from Trauma through Yoga: A Review. Depression Research and Treatment, 2012, 1-9. doi:10.1155/2012/401513woman on