The Inner Critic – How Yoga Can Help and Heal

Last week was a really difficult one for me – and when I have a bad week, I look for inspiration. I found it in a really honest and raw episode of Rachel Brathen’s ‘From the Heart: Conversations With Yoga Girl’ podcast. In the podcast, Rachel discusses how Yoga Teacher Training became a really emotional experience as they delved into each trainee’s relationship to themselves and how yoga has impacted that relationship.

Rachel discusses how each trainee was working with a negative stream of internal chatter around their own personal limitations – known in the world of psychology and self-help as the ‘inner critic’. The inner critic is that voice in your own head that doubts your decisions and tells you in varying tones or frequency that you are not good enough, you can’t do it, you aren’t worthy. While we all have that voice, some of us are better than others at accessing an internal stream of positive rebuttal to this critical voice – within the podcast this is called your internal ‘best friend’ because very often the way we talk to ourselves is very different to how we speak to others. By channeling how you would speak to a friend and then directing this sense of empathy, kindness and encouragement, Rachel encourages trainees to counter the inner critic. 

This episode was expanded into 2 parts as Rachel interviews each of her 50+ trainees asking them 2 simple questions “What does your inner critic say?” and “What would your internal best friend say?” and it’s astounding how many people came up with near-identical responses to both questions. There was some degree of variance, but the vast majority of the interviewees were able to harness a really empowering and self-assured inner champion with a little encouragement.

The reason this podcast resonated so deeply with me was because I could relate – not only to the different stories the interviewees were telling themselves on a regular basis, but also to the sense of healing that can happen when you create a community of like-minded people who are all contributing to making the space open for others to express themselves and feel vulnerable in an environment that feels safe and supportive.

As a confidence coach I hear a lot about this inner critic voice in different types of people, but there was something really disarming about hearing it from so many different nationalities and personalities within a short period of time. It also felt really empowering to see in such detail how similar each person’s inner critic sounded, and by unveiling the story of the inner critic, it gave everyone the opportunity to change their inner dialogue. It removed the sense of loneliness and shame in each person’s experience. No doubt each person felt really exposed and vulnerable, but with the support of their fellow trainees, they saw they weren’t alone in what they were experiencing and were able to find strength and empowerment in their inner dialogue. 

So what does this have to do with yoga? Yoga teacher training is a surprisingly emotional experience – it’s hard to describe to those who have yet to experience it, but within the training there are a number of elements that contribute to a really empowering experience – community, safe space and encouragement. I found these episodes really inspiring, because this is what yoga is really all about, in my opinion. It’s about community, empowerment and providing a safe space for people to come to heal and feel good about who they are. This is what I strive to create in each class and workshop as a teacher- and this is what I seek in classes and in my self-practice as a student. Some days that means going to your studio to flow with fellow yogis, other days it’s as simple as listening to a podcast in a low moment. Yoga can provide so much, and to me it’s all about supporting yourself in the ways that you need day to day. 

Here are the links to Rachel’s podcasts on Spotify: click here to listen to Part 1 and here to listen to Part 2. I hope you find some inspiration and community within the interviews.