Have you ever been on the yoga mat and felt fear?
Fear of falling down, of injuring yourself in a specific posture, of dropping back? Well, I have… And as you progress in your asana practice, you will probably face more challenging postures that will trigger more fears. So you might be asking yourself: why is all this yoga for? Why all this jumping back and forth?
During last 7 weeks, Sunil – the yoga philosophy teacher at Tattvaa Yogashala – has constantly reminded us of the final aim of yoga, the purpose behind the jumping, the sweating and the daily practice. He would say: ‘Aim of yoga is the voluntary control of our involuntary functions. How to reach that? Train your mind!’
We all have natural reflexes and they have a purpose, linked to surviving or making our life easier, though sometimes they become an obstacle on the path of yoga. Have you ever tried Jala Neti (cleansing the nostrils with water) or Sutra Neti (same cleansing but with a catheter)? How did it feel when for the first time you tried to push an external element up thru your nose? I was scared like hell by the idea of injuring myself. But the good news is… you can learn how to overcome fears!
Here in India many children runs barefoot without any worry while we as westerners tend to avoid it, each time very careful so to not step on anything that might harm us if we really have to. Than, what has gone wrong between being a child and being an adult? We develop fears, fears that come from conditioning, from experiences that leave a samskara (an imprint) in us. During last weeks I had great fear of falling from pincha mayurasana or handstands while practicing ashtanga 2nd series, and I felt limited. Day after day I started looking at that and finally realized that as fears come out of conditioning, we can learn to deconditioning ourselves… and made it! This is a beautiful effect of practicing yoga.
In your life, you wouldn’t put yourself upside down normally, but, when you practice yoga and do headstand, for example, your mat become your deconditioning playground. And you do it by training your mind. How to allow it to happen?
1/ start slowly – allow yourself the time to experience, to feel the emotions your fear arise, to be aware of them;
2/ do it often – do not allow too much time to go by between 2 yoga practices, so that the memory of what you are working on stay fresh in your mind, body and soul;
3/ do it regularly – remind yourself of your purpose every time you are practicing;
4/ do it gradually – you’re not fighting your fears, you are learning how to overcome them. So allow yourself time and use supports for that: you might need a wall to feel more secure at the beginning but than ask a teacher or somebody else you trust to assist you… and when you get more confident, give it a try and face your fear. Is it falling from shirshasana that scares you? Than fall on purpose and experience that there is nothing wrong in it and there are safe ways to do it… you may even discover that it can be fun. And once you experience it, that won’t have a grip on you any longer! This is a matter of freedom, this is breaking a chain, this is a matter of growing on the spiritual path of yoga as than it will become easier to bring this attitude from the yoga mat playground to your life!
5/ Have faith, you can do it!