November 6th, 2015
“LIVE FEARLESSLY!” shouts every inspirational yoga post ever. I understand the sentiment, but I - even with many therapy sessions, a strong yoga practice, and semi-reckless tendencies - have never conquered fear. I have been scared my whole life. I have been socially anxious for as long as I can remember. I was sure I would die tragically at 26, and now I think it’s 31 (we will see). I am afraid of heights, I am afraid of slamming into a tree on my skis, I am afraid of Ben dying, I am afraid that I’m not “yoga” enough, and, most of all, I am afraid of failing.
When I moved to London, alone, clueless, and 23 for grad school, I was scared. When I met Ben, I was scared. When I opened this studio, I was definitely scared. So, instead of “living fearlessly”, I’d rather try to live a life where I understand, manage, and respond to my fears with greater understanding and skill.
Part of my role is to be open with all of you, because I genuinely care and because I talk with so many students feeling guilty or ashamed when they experience fear in class. Like our breath and the mini-dramas of the mind, let’s drop the expectations and “should”s, observe, listen, and - over time - learn to lessen our reaction to fear.
So, instead of totally freaking out and giving into my emotional response, I have been trying to be a little less reactionary and a little more understanding of my fear. This is how I have been trying to take a breath, take a step back, and deal with those things that crop up and freak me out:
Break it down.
What, exactly, are you afraid of? Is it getting hurt? Is it embarrassing yourself? 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.
Be Ok with it.
Fear is a normal, natural, and common response for beings. My cat has fears. Nothing gets better by feeling bad and ignoring the issue. Also, know that if you’re getting cold sweats when I ask you to “just take a few hops towards handstand” in the center of the room, I can guarantee that at least a few other people are about to s*%! their stretchy pants, too.
Get by with a little help from your friends. Or teacher.
We are here to support you as a teacher and as a friend. Talk about it, ask about it, let us know what you need. I know we have this luminous golden aura of all-knowing wisdom, butterfly kisses, and rainbow farts around us, but we still can’t read your mind. Offload some of that psychosis and we will work through it together.
Inhale. Exhale. EXHALE! (yes, repeat)
Keep breathing, and focus more on exhaling. When we get a little frazzled, one of the physical responses is to inhale more than we exhale. Take a few long, slow breaths with a nice long exhalation. You already feel better, huh.
Try it over and over.
Practice takes practice, I always say. Keep doing it, keep facing it, and keep trying. Every opportunity will make it easier to live with those little pangs of fear.
When in doubt, recognize the things that you have faced in your life. Remember the times you felt fear and then went on to surprise yourself. Your fear doesn’t have to define you, it just gets to be a part of your wonderfully intricate and complex brain. I try to remind myself that I lived past 26, actually look forward to interacting with people, and have succeeded in failing and learning from those failures. The cat doesn’t seem to lose sleep over it, why should we?