Fear has shown up, and has been defeated, many times over the decades that I’ve practiced yoga. Fear’s job is to keep us safe and out of danger, but sometimes our fear prevents us from advancing or going deeper in yoga. We can’t escape fear, nor can we predict when and how it will show up in our yoga practice—but we can use it as a tool for insight and transformation.
The biggest shift in my exploration of fear was seeing fear as something to be consciously examined and not something to run away from. By following these five steps, you too can mindfully befriend and conquer your fears on and off your yoga mat:
1. Identify your fears
The first step to tackle your fears is to identify your fears and write each of them down. Observe and document your thoughts about these fears and note your physical reactions to them. Continue to explore, contemplate and journal until you can unravel the roots of your fears and discover exactly what you are afraid of. Writing is known to be cathartic so this step may dissipate a good amount of your fear and anxiety by itself.
Once you have a list of the things that bring up fear, contemplate and evaluate each one. Ask yourself questions like: “Is this fear irrational? Is this a healthy fear that’s keeping me safe? Can this fear be overcome with my current abilities and skills? Do I want to overcome this fear, and if so, how much effort am I willing to put towards this?”
3. Create a plan and visualize success
Once you have identified and evaluated at least one fear you want to conquer, the next step is to create a step-by-step plan on how to skillfully and consciously make progress on overcoming the fear. Be creative on how to remove or minimize fearful elements, and brainstorm ways to build confidence. Break things down into small steps that are easy to accomplish and slowly move you towards accomplishing your goal.
Visualizing yourself doing the steps in your plan will prepare and train your body and mind for success. Mentally rehearsing imagery can keep you calm and focused. Use all of your five senses to practice the steps in your mind with as much detail as possible.
4. Strengthen and deepen your yoga practice
Throughout this process keep your yoga and meditation practice strong to maintain a calm, focused and centered mind. Committing to a daily or regular practice builds the inner strength and will power to follow through with your plan to face your fears. Now is also a great time to deepen your yoga practice by incorporating more esoteric techniques like mantra, mudra and pranayama.
5. Take action
The only way to conquer your fears is to face them and take action. If you have already practiced the above steps hopefully you have already seen your fears begin to diminish. You are now ready to practice the first step in your plan. Go for it! Remember to take things slow, honor your feelings, and conjure up your bravery, will power and confidence.
Our fears are incredibly powerful and often paralyzing. If you find yourself struggling with this five-step process, consider finding outside support. A good friend, yoga instructor or counselor are all great resources to draw upon for support and encouragement to conquer your fears.
The opposite of fear is freedom. If you want freedom from fear, the above steps will teach you how to embrace it as a powerful energy for transformation and change. Once you master fear on your yoga mat you can then take these same techniques to conquer fear, worry and anxiety in the world around you.