Happy Halloween! As we down the candy and think about all things scary (I’m still working up the courage to watch IT), it’s a good time to talk about yoga and fear.
Yoga and fear seem almost opposite, but they come together in two different ways:
- Yoga can help reduce anxiety.
- Sometimes, people don’t do yoga because they’re afraid.
Yoga to Ease Your Fears
Yoga reduces stress (Mayo Clinic, UCLA, and Harvard agree). And stress, after all, is fear. Stress is the fear of not getting it all done in time, screwing up your child’s life, forgetting an important document, failing to impress your boss, sleeping through the alarm.
Furthermore, anxiety/fear is an emotion about the future. When we’re truly in the present moment, there is no fear. One of my favorite Osho quotes goes like this:
“The past is no more and the future is not yet: both are unnecessarily moving in directions which don’t exist. One used to exist, but no longer exists, and one has not even started to exist. The only right person is one who lives moment to moment, whose arrow is directed to the moment, who is always here and now; wherever he is, his whole consciousness, his whole being, is involved in the reality of here and in the reality of now. That’s the only right direction.”
We choose to replay our memories, and we choose to create scenarios about the future. We build our own anxiety about things that have “not even started to exist.” We begin to fear our own creations that may never come to pass.
All that to say: yoga teaches us presence. We learn breath and body awareness, and we practice connecting to the present moment. The more often we can be here and now, the less opportunity we have to feel fear and anxiety.
Feeling Fear in Yoga
There are a few different reasons people get scared of yoga. 😉
They’re afraid to try something new.
This is a common fear, one we all have about certain things. We’re afraid of looking silly or getting it wrong. But yoga is a welcoming place, and all the other students there (as well as the teacher) had a first day once upon a time.
They’re afraid of certain poses.
Maybe you’ve been practicing for awhile, but the thought of being upside down is terrifying. That’s okay. There’s no reason to force yourself into poses you don’t feel comfortable with yet. In time, the fear might go away on its own as you build strength and confidence, and you’ll naturally move toward those poses you currently avoid.
They’re afraid to confront themselves.
Yoga makes you a better version of who you are, whatever that is. It doesn’t change your core being. It simply brings out the best in you; it brings out every beautiful thing that’s already present. That can be scary. I’ve got another favorite quote, this one by Marianne Williamson:
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be?”
It’s also worth noting that yoga can bring up some intense emotions, even right there in the middle of a class. That can be scary the first time it happens to you, especially if no one warned you it could happen. Don’t let it scare you away from returning to class. Experiencing our emotions is healthy, and if yoga can help us unlock something we’ve blocked, that’s a good thing.
Overcoming Fear in (and With!) Yoga
If you find yourself afraid of trying yoga, I encourage you to make it as easy as possible for yourself. Take a look at my ebook, Your Top 50 Yoga Questions Answered, to find answers to some of the questions you probably have about yoga. Try a gentle beginner’s yoga class at home, or go to a small class with a friend.
Also: don’t think about it too much! Don’t go to your first yoga class 400 times in your mind before you actually go to your first yoga class in real life.
As far as reducing fear and anxiety by practicing yoga, you don’t have to go to class with that as your plan. Just practice, and keep practicing, and notice how you gradually start to feel less anxious, how you start to get better at living in the present moment.
For now, take a deep breath. That alone is great start toward easing your fear.
(Now let’s see if that works when it comes to scary Halloween movies….)