by Karissa Thacker

The other morning, I woke up knowing that the day was going to be stressful. So I decided to focus on the following statement as the background narrative in my mind: “I am loose and relaxed, physically and mentally.”

Fast forward to 3:38 pm: Nothing could have been farther from the truth. My shoulders were close to touching my ears, and my mind was racing. I said the statement a few times out loud, but nothing changed. Psychology teaches us the power of repeated “I am” statements to shape our mental attitudes and behaviors. It was not working for me.

Then it hit me. This was a good time for 10 deep breaths in Downward-Facing Dog, followed by a yogic breathing exercise called Nadi Shodhana (Alternate-Nostril Breath). Through trial and error, I have learned that those 10 deep breaths, taken upside down, connect me to what is really important in the big picture, while Nadi Shodhana calms both mind and body.

Twenty minutes later, I returned to my desk much looser and more relaxed, both physically and mentally. The practice of yoga helped me live up to my ideal self. I needed the “I am” statement that I crafted in the morning to give shape to the optimal state of being I was striving for, and I needed the 10 deep breaths in Down Dog and the Nadi Shodhana to support that clarity and vision.

I can tell myself all day that I am loose and relaxed mentally and physically—but how do I actually create that loose and relaxed state on a physical level? That’s where the practice of yoga comes in. Once I loosen up physically, my mind also loosens up. There is tremendous power in the combination of positive psychology and yoga to help us live into our authentic selves.

Many of us can attest to the power of yoga to make a real difference in our lives. Now research being conducted under the auspices of the Kripalu Institute for Extraordinary Living (KIEL) is subjecting the practices of yoga to the rigor of scientific inquiry, looking at the impact of yoga on everything from PTSD to self-regulation to brain function.

Edi Pasalis, director of the KIEL, was our most recent guest for the Authentic Leadership webinar series. Click here to register to receive free access to a recording of Edi’s talk, and find out more about our next webinar guest, Robert E. Quinn, co-author of Lift: Becoming a Positive Force in Any Situation.


Karissa Thacker is a management psychologist who has served as a consultant for 200 Fortune 500 companies, including UPS, Best Buy, and AT&T. Her specialty is executive coaching, with a focus on increased performance combined with increased individual satisfaction at work. Karissa is the founder and president of Strategic Performance Solutions, Inc., a management consulting firm creating innovative solutions in the space of human performance and satisfaction at work. She serves as adjunct faculty for the Lerner School of Business at the University of Delaware.