Fear: On and Off Our Yoga Mats

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This past weekend, my sister, her friend, and I spent the afternoon getting manicures together. I have been a frequent customer at the salon for the last couple of years. One of the co-owners has been practicing yoga at the studio I teach at for the last year or so. We had yet to be paired with one another at the salon; so, I was excited when she was available to be my manicurist.

Throughout the duration of my visit, we were actively engaged in yoga conversation…Discussing everything from our favorite postures to our most frequented classes. While we were talking, she told me she was afraid of practicing inversions and she refused to try them in class. When I asked her why, she said she was scared of falling or breaking her neck… I understood her fear, inversions can be scary; and for a variety of reasons, inversions aren’t for every yogi.

I tried not to impose my opinions on her; but, I love inversions and when practiced safely, going upside down can be really good for mind and body. Yet, as with all things in life, inversions can be helpful and harmful. Therefore, I feel it is best for each yogi to decide if/when practicing inversions is right for them.

With that said, her fear of inversions got me thinking. It seemed as if she wanted to go upside down; but, her fears prevented her from trying. On and off the mat, we make healthy choices to protect ourselves from undue pain or injury. Yet, sometimes we hold back more than we should because we are scared of the uncontrollable consequences. I know I make decisions based off fear. Further, I often have a fear of the future, intricately imaging undesirable outcomes.

I know I am not the only person who balks at decisions or frets over fears of the feature. Nevertheless, I do know that I want to live each moment faithfully present and fearless. myInsens ambassador, Tiffany Cruikshank, was interviewed by Robert Piper this last October for Elephant Journal. Piper asked Tiffany why she enjoyed inversions so much, she said, “Inversions force us to be present. They stir you up, you have to be completely immersed in them. Inversions test your ability to stay present.”

Tiffany’s sentiments deeply resonated with me, going upside is one of the few times I truly feel present. To safely practice an inversion, you must first prep the body with the guidance of a trained yogi. Once the body is physically capable of going upside, it takes a great deal of courage and focus to get your hips over your head. As I reflected on the physical action of inverting; I began to consider the importance of focus to an upside down pose. While practicing inversions it is nearly impossible not to be mindful during the pose; and, that what keeps you successfully upside. On and off the mat, when we allow ourselves to be distracted by fear, we are more likely to make decisions that cause us to fall, literally and figuratively.

About a year ago, one of my favorite yoga teachers read a quote from Marianne Williamson’s,  A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of A Course in Miracles, at the beginning of class. I was in a transitionary phase in my life and I feared taking the next steps. As she read the quote aloud, goosebumps spread across my entire body.

The quote was:

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

Those words have stuck with me ever since that day. It is true, we are more fearful of our greatness than our inadequacies. Our egos keep us from trying things we are capable of doing, at that off chance we may fail. However, every time we make a decision based on faith, whether on or off the mat, we strengthen that powerful response and continue to make more empowered choices, instead of fearful ones. Our strength motivates others to be courageous, too. How many times have you felt empowered watching someone else make a liberated decision? “Playing Small does not serve the world.” Be a living example. Live boldly, trust yourself, and be a beacon of light for yourself and others.

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