Fear inevitably strikes us each in some way, shape, or form. In fact, the fears we experience on our yoga mats can (and often do) mirror the fears which challenge us in life.
When we come to our yoga practice, we have the chance to learn more about our fears in a safe place. Stepping onto our mats provides us with the opportunity to explore our fears, gain a deeper understanding of them, and grow from the experience.
Here are three common fears and how yoga helps us discover and release them.
1. The Fear of the Unknown
Have you ever taken a yoga class where the teacher led you into a pose, which you then held for an interminable amount of time? Or have you ever been in a class where the teacher nixed the traditional format to mix things up for the day?
Did these events cause any distress? Frustration? Unease? Those emotions could be expressions of fear—a fear of the unknown. We don’t like to feel out of control in a situation.
Take this time to notice if you desire control, planning, and certainty, in your yoga practice and in your life. Then, take a deep breath—or ten if your teacher still has you chilling in Downward Facing Dog—and choose to rest in the certainty that you’re in a safe place on your mat.
Welcome the reality that, sometimes, not knowing opens us up for new discovery.
2. The Fear of Not Measuring Up
You’re in a class, and the teacher excitedly declares that today’s is focus on arm balances and inversions. The last time you tried Crow Pose, you busted it. And headstand? Never in your life have you tried going upside down.
Does your mind start reeling with ways to respectfully excuse yourself from the class, or do you resign yourself to child’s pose for the duration of class? What’s holding you back? Is it possible you fear what other people may think of your practice instead of the physical challenge of the pose?
We worry about lacking in comparison to others, but the reality is that we have and are enough. We can only ask ourselves to give our best. When we focus on the pose at hand, one alignment cue at a time, we begin releasing the concern of what other people think in the process.
By practicing our best on the mats, we learn to trust that it is enough and watch as it gradually brings us to places we never imagined. It may take time and practice, but it happens because we learn to try.
The same desire to give your best to the pose can carry into your life, where you can rest in your hard work—knowing fully well that you don’t need the opinion of others to determine if you gave your best effort.
3. The Fear of Vulnerability
We each have that pose—the one pose that brings up so much emotion and uncertainty. Perhaps you have tights shoulders and having to support yourself in Wheel Pose doesn’t feel awesome. Or perhaps those tight hips make finding a way to open and relax in Pigeon challenging.
Maybe you dealt with a hamstring injury, which now causes gripping in fear during forward folds, instead of the freedom to deepen.
Whatever the case may be for you, it ties to our sense of vulnerability. We have very human bodies with very real limitations—limitations we don’t always want to accept.
Embracing our vulnerabilities, however, gives us the chance to seek support—from our teachers’ knowledge, from props, and from yoga friends as we share our weaknesses. Adjusting to our physical restraints in our practice, we soften to our other struggles in our lives.
We discover that it’s okay to not have it all together. What we may deem our shortcomings can, in fact, open worlds of possibility for connections, encouragement, and love—love of others as we uplift one another, and a love of self as we release the illusion of perfection.
Vulnerability, failure, and uncertainty don’t seem so scary when we take the time to learn from them. Start on the mat, where the lessons can come gently. Search them out. Find greater understanding. Then go forward into your life, ready to bloom and prosper.