My first teacher used to quote her guru as saying “there are only two true emotions, love and fear”. I am still not quite sure if I believe fear is truly the antithesis of love, but I would agree that if the true self is revealed by love, then fear is the obstacle that obscures our authenticity. Yoga is the practice of authenticity in action: if so, then how can our practice change our relationship to the things that we fear? If that which we fear is inescapable and inevitable, then can our practice at least alter our perception of it, and thus lessen its hold over us?
The things we fear are varied: we fear the perceived betrayal of the body through growing old, through falling, through infirmity and disease. We fear the loss of control and security, as children grow up and parents age, and our careers or relationship take unexpected turns. We fear everything from global pandemics to ghoulies, ghosties, and long-legged beasties – truly, both individually and in the collective unconscious, our fears are too numerous to name.
What, then, can yoga do for us? Perhaps we find a way through breath, in difficult situations; or in challenging poses, courage that we then take into the outer world. Perhaps we can find joy in movement, and capability we did not know existed within ourselves, giving us new confidence to confront our fears.
We might also think about the fact that while yoga may help us confront fear, it can also raise fears of its own. Many first time students in savasana cannot close their eyes or uncross their arms, in the suddenly undefended position of the pose. I have listened to a fellow student at a yoga nidra workshop talk of the void encountered in the depth of meditation and relaxation, and the fear at its edge. And inversions in particular are famous (or infamous) for creating both fear and courage.
Share with us your thoughts on fear and yoga, and read along as fellow yogalilans contribute their posts.