When I was a new yoga student, there were a lot of things about the practice that created fear. That first backbend, the first time I tried a headstand or even just letting myself commit to being in stillness at the end of the practice; these things were all challenging to me.
That was 1999, when I started practicing yoga and while those fears have subsided, there are plenty of new things that have taken their place. The mind often works like that; get rid of one fear and just wait and another might pop in.
As a yoga teacher working for myself, there are many challenges I face along the path to building a successful business. How that is defined is different for every teacher but needless to say, a lot of it involves showing yourself fully and taking risks, both in your teaching and in taking on new projects and initiatives. I remember when I started writing my book, “Stretched: Build Your Yoga Business, Grow Your Teaching Techniques,” it was all fun and games until the day it was published. I was terrified that someone would hate it and write an awful review. While that hasn’t happened, I still have fear sometimes around doing new things and putting myself out there.
We all have fear and part of life is learning to live with it, to some degree. There are practical things we can do to alleviate our fears and much of what we can do is directly tied to the nature of the fear itself. Some of our fears lessen as we age but often with age, comes new fears. This is all part of the cycle of life.
Our yoga practice is a grounding force that can help us find peace in good times, bad times and especially times in our life when we are facing our fears. One of the best pieces of advice I believe my father shared with me once was, “Face Your Fears and Do It Anyway.” I love this sentiment because it shows the human side (“you have fear and it’s real”) and also shows the more practical side ( “do it anyway”). Sometimes our fears are around things we can’t avoid, like a new job, or staying in a job we don’t like or going on a first date after a long time of being single or leaving a job to try something new. All of these things may bring up fear but it’s the need to “do it anyway” that can sometimes drive us forward.
I’m convinced one of the hallmarks of successful people is that ability to live with fear and do it anyway. They have the ability to live with those butterflies in their stomach and move forward. Again, our yoga practice, with its focus on the breath, its ability to keep us connected to the moment and the physical movement and attention that it requires is sometimes enough to help quell those butterflies.
There are no quick fixes to learning to live with fear. But there is practice and acceptance that it is part of life. There is rejoicing over goals achieved and having compassion for ourselves when we try but do not succeed in the way that we expected. And above all, there is always the hope of a new day and trying again.