I've made the choice to change the narrative of my story and manage my interpretation of fear. Instead of trying to live a “fearless” life, I’m trying to live a life where I understand, manage, and respond to my fears with greater compassion and skill. I’m under no illusion that my fears will ever go away. I am, however, optimistic that I can continue to get better at working through my fears so that they don’t unconsciously control my behavior. Compassion and skill, these are the tools, and stress-reducing qualities of yoga that help us grow into a better person.
If you know me, you know I’ve never been afraid of a challenge. I have a sub 40-minute 10k road race time, finished 2nd in my age group in the country of Austria in the Crossfit Open in 2017 while living abroad. I’m minutes away for a sub 2hr La Luz trail race finish time. I can grin and bear a lot of physical discomforts and have never been afraid of the pain cave, but this is driven by my ego, and the competition and comparison to others are stress producing qualities, and I need less of it in my life.
These days sitting quietly with my thoughts and my breath is enough of a challenge.
In fact, I have countless fears, but I don’t live in fear. There’s a difference. Here’s a partial list:
I’m afraid of grasshoppers! Yep, I can handle any bug, just ask the misses, in fact, I played with centipedes and scorpions during childhood and wanted to study entomology in college because of my fascination of aquatic bug life during the years I taught myself to fly fish and tie my own flies. But I will shriek at grasshoppers and turn the other way. Fortunately for my wife, I’m not afraid of spiders.
I’m afraid of turbulence; sweaty palms from take off to touchdown.
I’m afraid of bodies of water where I can’t see the ground.
I’m afraid of losing my loved ones.
I’m afraid of failure, (and I've had a bunch of them!)
I’m afraid that my style of teaching yoga will never become relevant or that teaching yoga and running a yoga studio will never be a viable livelihood for my family.
I also get little twinges of fear when I practice deep backbends like ustransana or when I’m starting to drop my head back just a little bit when in tadasana while shifting my hips forward and exposing my throat.
The reason that I’m sharing this is because I witness so many students feeling guilty or ashamed when they practice postures that trigger fear. When we’re afraid to acknowledge and feel our fears, it only makes things worse. Instead of trying to stuff your fears, I invite you to use our hot yoga facility as the perfect place to witness your fears and become more skillful at working through them. If there is a posture that scares you, please talk to us about it. Let’s work on it together!
Yoga is a tool that helps us discover that we are not the product of our thoughts,
I can tell you from experience, we are bigger and stronger than our fears. You can climb that mountain and you can master that inversion!
Here’s a step-by-step process for you to try:
1. Accept It
We must remember that fear is ingrained in our nervous system. But we are not running from tigers and bears, and we are fortunate to live in a life of abundance that I’m not fearful of where my next meal will come. Remember that fear is normal, it’s a natural part of the human psyche.
Don’t beat yourself up or feel guilty because you experience fear. It can also lead to feelings of separation, as though you’re the only person in the room with fear and that something is wrong with you.
You are never the only person with fear in the room
There is nothing wrong with you. Got it?!
2. Demystify It
When you become fearful in your yoga practice, try to drill down and identify what you’re afraid of. Let’s say you’re afraid of handstands. Take another step and try to figure out the specific fear you’re experiencing, such as the fear of falling on your head. Being more objective with your fear will help you start to demystify it. This will begin to lessen the fear. Even more, it will identify the challenge that you’re trying to solve.
3. Ask for Help
Asking a yoga instructor for help does two things: First, you take some of the pressure off yourself. You reduce the burden that you’ve internalized. (And, no, you’re not adding to your teacher’s burden. This is what we’re here for.) Second, you get help when you ask for it! Your teacher might not know that you need a little extra support. When you ask for help, they can usually give you the physical and mental support that you need.
Lengthen your exhalations. Lengthening your exhalations will settle you, focus you, and soothe you. Once you’ve lengthened your exhalations, take an “Everything’s gonna be alright” breath. You know what I mean, that long drawn out sigh.
5. Use Support
The first wave of support should come from a teacher, but you may also benefit from using more props, like the wall, bolsters, and blankets. If you’re afraid of Handstands, stay at the wall without feeling guilty that you’re not in the middle of the room! If you’re afraid of falling on your face in Bakasana, use a block. Ask me about feeding your bird! Universal Law #1:
If you feed it, it will grow!
6. Don’t Stay Long
Don’t stay long in postures that scare you. Staying too long in stressful situations usually increases aversion. Try staying for a breath or two — it will give you the confidence to know that you can do the pose. But if you know that you’re only going to do the pose for a couple of breaths, you’ll be much more willing to repeat it.
7.Rinse and Repeat
Repeat the yoga postures that scare you—for brief periods and with proper support—more frequently. The longer you avoid yoga postures that scare you, the bigger the aversion becomes. Instead, repeat the postures with adequate support as frequently as you can. This repeat exposure—and success in the postures—will help you reframe your relationship with yoga to your fear of yoga.
Come Practice Hot Yoga In Albuquerque With Us
We have another amazing opportunity to learn how to change the narrative of our fears and grow from a master teacher. Carson Calhoun is coming back to SWEAT Yoga Studio for a Rocket Yoga class as our special guest for our Friday night Flow to the Beat yoga.