Beauty Starts On The Inside. Here's How To Be More Confident.

Written by Sara Quiriconi
A 15-year cancer survivor, Miami-based Sara Quiriconi fell in love with yoga, well-being, and travel for its self-healing properties. An honors graduate with a bachelor's in graphic design from Fairfield University, she is also a certified yoga instructor and certified health coach (Institute for Integrative Nutrition). Quiriconi also authored Living {Cancer} Free.

Manifest the year of your dreams by going inward. Renew You 2017 is a month of mindfulness during which we’ll share content that guides you to create a deeply rooted intention for the new year. We’ll help you navigate inevitable obstacles with the latest science on habits, motivation, ritual, and more and equip you with tried-and-true techniques to outsmart even the toughest inner critic.

"Be a pineapple: Stand tall, wear a crown, and be sweet on the inside."

I've been an experimenter on both sides of the table, trying for years to alter my body to be the perfect size or shape I thought I needed to be liked or appreciated. I tried acting like the rest of the crowd, struggling to fit in and be popular. And I remember many days when I turned to substances when I got tired of it all and tried to forget or numb out the uncomfortable feeling of being different, not liked, and more than anything, the effort of always trying to be something I confidently wasn't.

What finally helped? Well, it wasn't the alcohol and I gave up perfection a long time ago! But yoga and doing some inner self-questioning did. Why might something like yoga help you build confidence, you may wonder? Not only do most forms of yoga leave you feeling physically stronger, they also give you space to be and think without judgment—including judgment about yourself! When you can move freely, feel openly, and express without fear, you are finally allowing you mind and your body the space to simply be in its own form as it was designed and meant to.

Tall, proud, confident, and strong were adjectives I learned the feeling and embodiment of on the yoga mat and in the movement and fitness world.

Ready to get your pineapple crown ready? Follow me through these five postures to be your most confident self. Most importantly, have fun, lose judgment, and let yourself play and live free once again!

Prone Shoulder Stretch

Photo: Javier Olmedo

Opening up the chest muscles, shoulders, and neck (all of which get very shortened and tight from slouching forward for long periods of time), this is one of my favorite postures to do waking up in the morning. Not only do I breathe better, but I feel more open to the day ahead, knowing I can confidently handle all of the ebbs and flows of the day.

How to: Lying on the belly, extend your left arm out to the side, bent at a 90-degree angle. Keeping the elbow in line with the shoulder, and the palm flat to the ground, begin to roll onto your left side like you were rolling out of bed. Stacking your right hip on top of your left, breathe into your chest deeply and openly, opening up the connected area from your chest just under your armpit area.

Stay here for 5 to 10 breaths, then switch sides.

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High Lunge with Bound Hands (Anjaneyasana Variation)

Photo: Javier Olmedo

Putting that pineapple crown into action, this one's all about standing up tall and proud! With an open chest, we are vulnerable yet courageous to show our true selves, without a shield of any kind. The hands bound signify nonresistance, and the grounding in the posture through the legs emanating power in where you are and where you have come from.

How to: From a high lunge position, interlace the hands behind the small of your back. If the arms and shoulders allow, extend them out all the way, allowing for the lift in this posture to be in the breastbone area, opening into the thoracic spine. Scissoring the legs in toward one another for stability and grounding, engage the core muscles, protecting your low back as you expand the lungs and chest on each inhale, and relax down the back side of the body on each exhale.

Another option, if the bound hands isn't working for you, is to bend the elbows and grab hold of them behind your back for a similar variation. Hold for 5 breaths, switching sides.

Forward-Facing Dog Pose (Urdhva Mudka Svanasana)

Photo: Javier Olmedo

A posture of strength, power, authority, yet one that requires you to feel at ease and relaxed, forward-facing dog offers you the space to open and leave vulnerable the entire front side of your body. Exposing all areas that we tend to close off when we are feeling uneasy or fearful, we awaken the hip flexors, entire spine, throat, and shoulders in this posture. The interesting thing to note is how much of our legs, core, and upper back we are using to make this pose safely happen! Here's how:

How to: From a prone position on the belly, place the palms of your hands by your two bottom ribs. Before actively using the hands to lift you up, engage the upper back, that space right between where your shoulder blades are. Feel your core working, pressing the tops of your toes down to the mat, keeping the legs strong and active. Now, on your inhale, press into the palms until the arms are straight, to assist your ascent, keeping the shoulders stacked over the wrists, lifting the thighs, hips, and abdomen away from the mat. When the posture is complete, the hands and the tops of your toes are the only thing touching down to the mat.

To modify this posture, keep the thighs and hips still connected to the mat, with a bend in the elbows (cobra pose, or Bhujungasana)

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Seated Cat/Cow

Photo: Javier Olmedo

I add this one in here because it's a mini sequence you can do just about anywhere! Many of us spend long hours behind a desk, in the car, or traveling from one point to another. And this sequence you can literally do even on an airplane (yes, I do this every time I fly)! Not only does it free up your spine, but it relieves the pressure on your upper back as a kind reminder for you to sit with better posture while providing you a quick boost of energy to keep you focused and moving forward.

How To: From a kneeling position (or a chair, if the knees feel more comfortable that way), place the hands on the thighs, like they were Superglued to the area just above where the knees are. On the inhale, exaggerate the heart forward and engage the upper back, with the gaze forward or chin slightly turned up. On the exhale, reverse the motion, rounding the spine like a cat back, engaging the core muscles and possibly taking chin to chest.

Repeat 10 to 20 rounds, as desired, followed by a gentle spinal twist to release the full spinal column.

Ganesha Mudra

Photo: Javier Olmedo

Overcome any obstacle that lies in your path using the power and strength mudra named after Ganesha. Ganesha is the friendly-looking elephant I personally love and adore, but he's also quite a character that holds some interesting purpose behind his play. Known to be the placer and remover of obstacles, Ganesha guides us all on our path of intuition and universal intention, on a path that perhaps we can only connect all the dots on our journey looking back. Ready to try?

How To: You can perform this mudra from a traditional standing position, or in a warrior posture, such as a lunge or Virabhadrasana 1 or 2. With arms extended out perpendicular to the body, create a grip of your hands in front of your chest. Pull your hands away from each other, feeling the muscle activity in the back of the shoulders and between the shoulder blades. Allow the chest to puff up strong as you breathe and set any strong intention you choose here while holding. After 5 to 10 breaths, switch the grip of your hands and repeat again, switching stances as well, if you're in a standing posture.

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