NAVIGATING YOGA > Fear is a natural part of being alive. It reminds us that we are human, and that we are, in fact, imperfect. And we are afraid of everything, aren’t we? We are afraid of death, deadlines, change, the proverbial monster living under our beds, afraid we fear too much … Incessant worrying about the possibility of things going wrong or completely destructing around one’s self can cloud every experience in life. Mark Twain once famously quipped, “I have been through some terrible things in my life, some of which actually happened.” I love this quotation because it reminds me that fear is instinctual, and that when we let ourselves be consumed by fear, we lose grasp of our ability to distinguish what is real and what isn’t.
Not to discount any legitimate reasons for fear, but when we let fear cloud our reality we have a difficult time compartmentalizing it. Luckily, we can use yoga, contemplation and meditation to alleviate fear. By learning to place fear aside to focus on your practice, you will learn how to bring your awareness to the present. Because the root of fear often leans toward the idea that “something is wrong,” more often than not that can transpire into “something is wrong with me.” Yoga can help name your fear: by letting go of ego through yoga, we can often rationalize what we are afraid of.
At the beginning of your next yoga class, or if and when you sit down to meditate on your own, think about dedicating your practice or your thoughts to someone or something that is important to you, perhaps sending that dedication to someone who needs a little extra love. I often cue my students to do this in these exact words. By dedicating your practice to something larger than yourself, like a cause or a loved one, you are immediately putting your best foot forward to eliminate ego, and thus eliminating the fears and distractions that hold us back from feeling the most sincere benefits from yoga or any other life activity.
By letting go of ego, you are ultimately acknowledging that there are things in your life that you cannot control. By letting go of the need for control, we can be present. Learning to be present is what yoga is all about. By being present you are essentially achieving meditation, allowing yoga to be that moving meditative practice. Remember to be patient with yourself; learning to let go of fear takes time. As you practice yoga, use your breath to surround your body with love, acceptance and patience. As often as you can, silently affirm to yourself, “I am safe, I am sound, all good things come to me, they bring me peace.” Remember that it’s about the journey, not the destination. The more patient you are with yourself about letting go, the longer lasting your riddance of fear will be and the more sustainable your release of the anxiety that tugs on your heartstrings will become.
Shandara Gill, or Shanie, is a yoga teacher in the greater Santa Cruz area. She teaches more than 10 classes a week at the Westside, downtown, and Cabrillo Toadal Fitness locations. For more information about Shanie and her classes, you can visit toadalfitness.com or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.