Fear is a common theme in the yoga world, complete with a focus on back-bending and ubiquitous statements like “just breathe” and “let yourself go”. To me, this acknowledges fear, but then promptly turns away from it and sneaks in the themes of freedom or happiness to replace fear… this way, we don’t have to talk about it.
This week’s theme is going to take a little longer to discuss than the others before it. This is because fear hides. Fear is hard to hold and that’s a large part of what makes it difficult to deal with. Deep fear will make decisions for you and keep you from achieving your true potential (and you know this is true because it makes you angry).
Not many people want to address actual fear beyond admitting that they feel it (everybody feels it) and it’s much easier to look for a distraction so that they don’t have to focus on it anymore.
But that doesn’t address what you are afraid of and it doesn’t change your life in any positive way. What it does do is to help the fear hide and grow. The deeper we shove fear down, the more insidious and scary it becomes.
In our modern lives, we spend most of our time outside of truly fearful circumstances, yet not making it on time to a yoga class or a dentist appointment can fill us with “fear”. We may have a fear that if we don’t practice everyday at a certain time that we are failing, or less of a yogi or so disorganized that we are worthless. These fears are not about making a yoga class or an appointment—these fears are about how we feel about ourselves and our places in the world.
Some types of conditioning can put fear into every moment of everyday and they’re meant to do that as a control mechanism to keep folks dependent on outside sources to feel any remote security in their lives. This is a mirage and it is cruel. There is no freedom in that type of life.
However, if you have the courage to see things for what they are and to take the time to develop a relationship with yourself that is based in self-love, acceptance, diligence and contentment, you will be able to work through and overcome your fears. There is true freedom and power on the other side of fear and it is definitely worth the journey!
There is an economic law that states if an economy is not growing, it is shrinking—there is no static state.
Fear is like this, but in reverse. If you are not actively addressing and calming your fears, they will grow. And as we grow older, our fears become more intense. They are more based in reality, and in reality, there can be a lot to be afraid of. But these fears can be slippery and not easy to get a hold on…
Think of something that you are afraid of—truly afraid of. Now, picture yourself in a yoga pose that you struggle with and notice how it requires trust and courage to accomplish. You are now in that pose, having accomplished it, and… your original fear has not changed at all.
In fact, the pose you’ve just accomplished did nothing to alleviate that fear. But, it did serve as a tool—something to focus on that required your full attention. This can be embraced as a distraction (or a short term fix). Or, it can be viewed as a shift in the way that you think about yourself.
Notice that the fears you have are yours, just like everything else you have, and in your mind you can change how you think about these fears by learning through your body. You are in charge of your mind and how it thinks just as you are in charge of positioning your body in a yoga pose. Embracing concepts is just like working into a pose. The pose, in and of itself, has no direct effect on your fear. It’s just a physical manifestation of the process and the way you approach it.
The true ability of a yoga practice to deal with fear is the process of bringing your thoughts under control so that you are able to identify fear correctly, and then work out a way to deal with it.
And, until our thoughts are clear and organized, we most often do not realize what it is that we are truly afraid of. Have you ever spoken with someone that has everything that they ever wanted, but was desperately unhappy? Have you ever gone after something, achieved it, and realized that the reason you went after it was not anything that mattered to you at all? And while you were “achieving”, did you miss out on things that were important to you?
There is a misconception that somehow, everything in life will work out. Although life will go on no matter what you do or don’t do, it might not work the way you would have liked. If you mask yourself and let your fears fester, life will not go in a direction that you want it to.
Do not hide who you are.
Trust that you are as you are supposed to be, even if you have a lot of unanswered questions and fears (everybody does). Take the time to take care of yourself, to address your fears, to love who you are and to develop in a direction that makes you happy. Know that you will struggle and cry, and know that there will be days when you think you understand something only to have it slide away… but it will always give you a new perspective.
Most of all, don’t settle or give up. Begin working with how you are right now, today, and think clearly and practice yoga to help you do this.
When you take care of you, you will feel the beautiful freedom and sense of worth that you are supposed to experience and that will allow you to be the best version of you for yourself and others.
This week’s poses will be posted in a bit, and they are very useful for training the body and mind to approach and deal with fear.