by Jess McNally
The past year was the hardest year of my life. I took over a business, had another business flourishing, learned loads about myself as a person, business owner, and friend, almost lost my mind, found it, lost it again, and found it again. Through it all, the one thing that kept me grounded and anchored was my yoga practice. Granted, it had its days, but it helped more than anything else.
Fear can overwhelm your life. Fear of change, fear of the future, fear of something new, fear of the old, fear of failure, fear of not being enough. Fear is quite a nasty little bugger. Fear can change your outlook on life. Fear can cause you to alter your lifestyle, your personality, and wreak havoc on your psyche in unimaginable ways. One way I am currently learning to conquer my fear of, well, fear itself, is by showing up to my yoga practice.
They say the hardest part of going to the gym is making it there. The same is true for yoga. So many people, myself included, have anxiety about attending their first yoga class! “Will I be good enough? Am I flexible enough? What if I don’t do it right? I can’t touch my toes! Oh no, my mind is wandering and it’s supposed to be clear!” Those are just a few of the things that I frequently hear as reasons as to why one does not practice yoga. But if you think about it… all those reasons are based out of fear. Fear of not being enough, fear of imperfection, fear of failure. Why do we continue to let this fear of the unknown run our lives?
Yoga in and of itself is certainly not just a physical practice. “From the practice of the elements of yoga comes the destruction of impurities; [therefrom] comes the shine of knowledge that stretches all the way to the domain of discernment.” This is Yoga sutra 2.28. What does that even mean? The practice of yoga contains eight elements. While we physically practice yoga asana (postures) at Purple Blossom Yoga Studio, we all try to incorporate the other seven elements into our teachings. By showing up to our yoga mats, taking time for ourselves, and practicing with the goal of bettering ourselves, we can overcome fear and so much more.
(abstinence, or practices for the self towards others)
The Yamas advise us to be kind to everything (literally, everything!), truthful in every aspect of our lives, give credit where credit is due, maintain constant awareness over our thoughts and actions, and give us permission to let things go whether it be for ourselves or someone else. This kindness and presence and mindfulness keeps our fears in check.
(observances, or practices of the self for the self)
The niyamas teach us how to live, living in a state of purity, contentment, acknowledging but never causing suffering, constant self-study, and surrender to the process. Niyamas allow us to observe our fears outside of ourselves, evaluate them, and overcome them.
(the physical posture practice)
Asana allows us to physically “work it all out” while moving through physical blockages to prove that our mental blockages are just simply that, a blockage. And a blockage can be removed, just like a fear can be overcome.
Pranayama (breath control)
Pranayama, or breath control, when done properly aids in relieving stress, calming the mind, and triggering the parasympathetic nervous system, calming our anxieties and fears.
Pratyahara (sense withdrawal) & Dharana (concentration)
Pratyahara, sense withdrawal, when combined with dharana, concentration, contributes to the retreat within ourselves, constantly evaluating and studying ourselves, figuring out all of our “why’s”.
Dhyana, meditation, is such an important practice. Meditation allows you to sit in observance your thoughts, going deeper into your why’s, and allowing you to find your true self. Your true fearless self.
Samadhi (a state of contemplation, absorption, and a superconscious state)
The last limb, Samadhi, is achieved once we have mastered the other seven limbs… or all of our fears.
So, what’s with all this fear nonsense? Why do we hold on to our fears and let them control our lives? My focus is on being fearless. Give yourself permission to try something new. Don’t let your fears and “what if’s” and “I cant’s” control your life. Any of the limbs of yoga can help you conquer your fears. At Purple Blossom, we strive to provide compassionate yoga to every individual, and this year, we want you to join us as we all fearlessly take your life by storm in mind, body, and spirit.