I was in yoga a couple weeks ago and had another of those “holy crap this changes things” moment. Before you roll your eyes at my cheesiness (yes, I understand that awakenings in yoga may be played out) stay with me for a moment. I mean it – it was like a hole opened up in the ceiling and I was illuminated by the glowing light of change.
I should preface this by saying that I tend toward more intense yoga classes. I love heated yoga, vigorous yoga, power yoga (goes by various names at different studios). I love to sweat and move and feel energized and drained all at the same time. I have been practicing yoga for over ten years and throughout that time my relationship with it has changed significantly. It is no longer an exercise that I do to maintain physical health and strength, but something that I do because it makes me feel whole and challenges me mentally.
Anyways, we were learning a pose that I had never done before. A transition into a pose really. I’m going to try my best to explain it so that you all have some context here. It was essentially a standing back bend where you start with your arms folded over your chest. You lean back and once you are back far enough to see the floor, you let your hands go behind your head to catch you in a “wheel” position.
Wheel, I can do. I’ve done it many times and am very comfortable in it.
But this? What is this!
First of all, how dare this teacher change things up like this. Self admittedly I am a creature of habit. Once I got over my crankiness of the change in the approach to the position, I tried it out. With a teacher assist of course – no way I was going back and falling on my head.
It was so freaking difficult. I could not open up and go back in the way I was supposed to.
It had nothing to do with my physical capabilities. Everything required I could physically do.
It was fear.
I was afraid (ok to my credit rightfully so, I mean falling on my head was a legitimate possibility here). But the only thing that was stopping me was that fear.
So I did a thing. I tried the pose anyways, accepting that I was afraid and not fighting it. What I mean by this is that I expected fear and emotional discomfort and once I did this it became easier. Now, I still need practice this bad boy, but this was that big moment.
It got me thinking. How much of the time are we not changing or not doing something because we are afraid? I don’t think fear is so much the problem, but maybe more our expectations that these changes are not going to feel scary, so when they do we balk.
So how does this apply to us.
Having that difficult conversation with your spouse can be scary, so what are our options? We can avoid it, or we can still have the conversation understanding that its going to be uncomfortable and that we are going to feel some level of anxiety or fear.
Its not so much the act of practicing the conversation (the pose if you will) but the act of practicing feeling the fear, or as one of my favorite professors would say, “sitting with your anxiety”.
Taking a new job can be scary, moving can be scary, staying in a relationship or leaving a relationship can be scary, having a baby can be scary. You get the picture.
Fear does serve a purpose for us. It warns us when we are in danger. Now whether or not we are actively in danger is something that needs to be assessed. Having a difficult conversation with a spouse in an abusive relationship could legitimately have dangerous implications whereas having a difficult conversation in a nonabusive relationship probably wouldn’t. However, in both situations a person can feel fear.
This moment in yoga has made me question if I give into fear because I am in danger or because I am not expecting to feel fear in that moment, and in turn avoid the stimulus to make it stop.
What if we can move through the fear and the thing that is waiting on the other side is amazing. I know that when I can do this yoga pose, I am going to feel like a rockstar. Not because my body could do it, but because my mind could.
This proverb has been playing in my head and I feel like it relates so here you go:
“Just when the caterpillar thought the world was over, she became a butterfly” – proverb
We are resilient and discomfort can be something that we become, well, more comfortable with.
Photo by Farsai C. on Unsplash