What My Yoga Practice Has Taught Me About Navigating Fear
Photography by Barry Bierman
If I diffuse the particles that disperse when I am practicing yoga asana, I see just how much dust is beneath my human surfaces—edges upon edges where I touch in with the pieces of myself that illuminate sharp blades of discomfort. Blades that are equally sharp, and seemingly dangerous, but equally so, they are reflective tools supporting my journey towards a deeper love; towards a deeper connection with my heart.
My time inside has brought many pieces of my personality to the surface. Pieces that in all honesty, I don't particularly like. In fact, at times, I genuinely hate the feelings that arise, especially and mostly the sensations of fear. That's quite simply what it boils down to -- a soupy, anxious circus of thoughts and sensations that begin to take up space in places I promised it wasn't allowed. My commitment and devotion to self-care, in the way of not giving my inner-gremlins permission to sit in the driver's seat, no matter how hard and sneaky they try.
This time spent inside has shown me just how resistant I can be to self-growth, how easily I seek comfort in the shelter of my home, and how tough it can be to drink my own medicine. I see my time inside through many different shades of colour, time not only to be inside but time to be within. Inside and within, we all have our own experience when turning our gaze inside ourselves. Sometimes it is effortless and tranquil, and other times it feels like a real war zone. Each of our own compasses and maps are similar to the game hide and seek; we can begin "seeking" anywhere and at any time, but we must play.
When I step onto my mat, time turns its clock sideways, and I begin what feels like ceremony time or medicine time. That kind of time that diffuses analog bars and hour hands into inhaled and exhaled moments and movements. But please hear me clearly--it is not always like this. Although I have such a sanctuary to steep in and learn from, I have recently found it to be so edgy to plop my booty down and move.
There is clarity within commitment, and this is something that I can't emphasize enough—commitment gives birth to clarity, just as much as clarity then, in turn, births commitment. Coming back around to those uncomfortable particles of thoughts and sensations that greet me at some point throughout my day... If there where only one lesson I could step away with, having been put through the growth blender, it would be this; Continuing to let any fear grip onto you, and control your state of being, will only increase the chances of such fear(s) actualizing. Fear of anything has taught me that when I resist it, by pushing it away from my mind or indulging with the thoughts that enhance my fears, I am thus giving the fear strength--strength to fester and return at another time, and it will always return until remedied.
From what I've experienced, this is the way of fears. Unless I courageously face my fears full-on when they arise, they will always return at the next opportunity, which is actually a blessing because there is a piece of me asking to be healed. For example, for years, it has been such a fear of mine to share my voice, and let's be honest, I still rub up against this fear of being seen so very often. Nevertheless, each time I choose to be courageous and do the opposite of what my fears are telling me (hide), I prove to myself that I don't need to be so fearful. Not only do I give my fears less power, but I also show myself how brave, wise, and empowered I am. Similar to a dear friend, I am able to hold my hand through each edge of discomfort that arises while meeting my growth corners. All of this taking place on and off my mat.
So what are the first steps towards facing your fears? I am confident that each person's process of meeting their fears looks a little different. Still, from my own experience, I have found that the more I am able to feel safe within my body, the braver I feel to navigate those sensations that come with feeling afraid. The truth is, to grow, we must face our fears, and what does it take to face your fears? More courage than you think you have. The best part? You can do it.
I believe that most of our fears are here to support our evolution. I say "most" because some of our fears are as natural as the shining sun and should stay that way. Take, for example, a fear of being eaten by a hungry and all-powerful tiger. That fear is legit, and we can bow down to our highly functioning central nervous system for how strong and capable it is. The fears that I am referring to are the ones that feel like a tiger is chasing you, but in reality, you're about to step up and give a public speech. Those are the fears that are worthy of thoughtful attention.
The most significant preparation I know for facing your fears is to become an expert at navigating your sensory experience. I find that carving out time each day to move, breathe, and connect in with my inner quietude and expansiveness, is the greatest way to prepare for challenging emotions, such as fear. In addition to movement, breathwork and meditation, I find that placing yourself in situations that bring up those feelings of fear can be very healing as well, but only in the right dosage, in a safe space, with the best tools at hand, and in your own timing. Forcing yourself to grow when you are not ready can actually cause more trauma and pain than growth, so knowing when you're ready is highly essential.
In no way am I an expert when it comes to healing from trauma, so I recommend reaching out to specialists within the field. These are simply tools that I've gleaned from my personal experience and perhaps you can relate—May my experience plant seeds of support, inspiration and perhaps above all, deepen your relationship with your brilliant self. You are wise. You are so beautiful. You are courageous. You are more than enough. You are worthy of inner freedom. You are all that you believe you are, so believe in your empowered self to support you when rubbing up against rough edges of your uniqueness.