Overcoming fear with yoga

If I could go back in time and give one piece of advice to my younger self, it would be "don't be so fearful, so afraid of the unknown, of what may or may not happen". Maybe I thought being risk-averse was sensible or playing it safe and would guarantee bad things not happening.  How wrong was I!  Instead, I couldn't control all the outcomes in my life and ended up with high anxiety levels instead.


Fear blocks so many aspects of our life.  It gets in the way of creativity, of opening ourselves up to new possibilities and directions, of learning and therefore growing, of totally embracing what life can offer.  It is impossible to tap into potential through fear, or to explore through fear.  I think I was trying to avoid feeling pain and being vulnerable.  Of course this didn't work, some really tough things came my way and to my surprise I survived them.  Yes, I realised that whatever was coming around the corner, the world kept turning, the sun kept rising and I kept breathing!


And what was it that kept me going, that helped me survive what seemed un-survivable? My inner strength and resolve. Practicing yoga helped me to discover this place that was there all along. It was a huge leap of faith to let go of my anxiety and take the risk of opening up, but the more I opened, the more I received. For example, deciding to fly to the other side of the world and doing yoga teacher training was a big challenge, full of risk yes (of the unknown, disappointment, failure etc), but the rewards were all the greater.


In her book My Lord loves a pure heart Swami Chidvilasananda lists Abhayam, fearlessness, as one of nine key virtues we should cultivate.  She says that when we are born we have a natural sense of helplessness and fear of the world (which I think through loving care and support is gradually dispelled as we grow up, if we are fortunate to receive it), and that the whole purpose of life is to undo the impression of limitation.  She reflects on what her spiritual teacher (Baba Muktananda) shared with her, that one of the things that inspires fear is that we are not aware of the divine place of fearlessness inside us, and that if you hold yourself back because of fear you will lose everything.  This has certainly been my experience.


We tend to look “out there” for the magic wand that will fix everything, for The Answer(s), when it is actually “in here”.  Hatha Yoga, whether I am practicing pranayama (breathing), meditation or asana (postures), keeps me grounded and in the present.  It connects me to my own source of strength and resilience - an awareness that, once attained, can never be taken away or lost.


So, next time you look in the mirror, maybe you can “see” past the external reflection to what is really there, inside, and the magic that awaits.