By Melissa Andersen
Many of us yogis find ourselves striking a dancers pose on the edge of a picturesque mountaintop, or overlooking our fingertips towards the Caribbean through a strong warrior two. We then ponder how did we find the strength from within to get this far, in both our practice and life? Yoga can be the fuel to help you follow your dreams and break through fears.
It begins in the studio or your private practice. You never forget that sensational high that envelopes the soul when pushing yourself into a crow pose for the first time. Telling your fears be silent. Success! Sound familiar, yogis?
It’s called building courage and stretching yourself to your personal brink. Yoga has the ability to draw us to beautiful places, or simply recognize the beauty our living room. It challenges us to have the resolution to leave our comfort zone and balance on the edge. Often this leads us to that “ah ha” moment, when we realize how far we have come in our practice by overcoming fears. This is one essential part of yoga, developing courage while letting your fear melt away onto the mat. If you are open to it, yoga can be your guide in overcoming everyday fears as well.
In 2011 I experienced one of the worst, or most transitional, years of my life. I was plagued with confusion, feeling trapped in an unfulfilling sales career, and overwhelmed by the wrong relationship. Fear of change and anger controlled my heart and I was absolutely lost.
What did I do, you ask? I hit the mat hard. I chataranga’ed my way through the pain and confusion. The more I put my heart into the practice, the stronger my postures became and the more I excelled. Somehow, pushing my troubles away through my vinyasas, I learned to overcome and conquer.
After six month of intense yoga, I was balancing my way into postures I never thought physically possible for my body. That confidence seeped into my daily life, and by the end of the year I quit my job, was out of my unhealthy relationship and on a one-way flight to India to do my yoga teacher training. Yoga prepared me to be the person I always wanted to be. That was over three years ago, and I have managed to live the life of my dreams since, traveling to over 40 countries and 5 continents. I have yoga to thank for every step.
Letting go of fear isn’t something that one learns overnight. It is a colossal antagonist. However, it is our biggest teacher. It takes time, repetition and patience to battle. Starting with small goals and keeping focus is essential.
Also, one must have amnesia their practice. Everyone has bad days. Don’t let frustration stop you from your goals! It may take time, and you have to give it the time it takes. Just remember that everyone has his or her own struggle, with yoga and life. You are not alone. The more you try, the closer you get to master your target. Then you are one step nearer to taking that newfound courage into your day-to-day lives.
Start small and build slowly. Rushing into a pasture like forearm stand or handstand can be quite dangerous. Just as rushing your dreams isn’t the best approach. Have patience. Start with simple tasks like bringing your heals ever closer to the ground during downward facing dog. Hold your plank for a few seconds longer each class. Add yogi push ups to your chataranga in order to build strength. Keep it simple at the beginning. Eventually you can start to build on more advanced postures, if this is something that you desire.
I also want to touch on building the courage to tackle meditation and breathing, which is at times a yogis biggest fear. Slowing the mind can prove extremely challenging and humbling. It forces you to slow down and be one with stillness. This is not easy. Adding minutes to your savasanas, or seconds to your breaths, can greatly improve your practice. Meditate and breath that fear away, over and over again. It will get easier with time and practice.
Essentially, what I am trying to encourage is to use yoga as a strength builder for not just your body, but your life as well. Reap the benefits of all that you do in your daily practice. By pushing through the fear of your postures, you teach yourself courage and diminish fear. Once you learn to utilize your yoga strength, you can more easily follow your dreams. Whether that is to quit your job to do headstands on the bow of a sailboat floating quietly in the warm Adriatic Sea, or simply adding 10 minutes to your meditation. Just know all are tangible. Learn to push yourself to your personal edge, and embrace yoga as your teacher. Namaste.