I am a Yoga Girl because I am scared as hell, but I do it anyway.
In some ways, fear has defined my life. I remember being afraid my parents were going to die when I was five, maybe six years old and I would lay awake at night praying to God that they would be okay. And they were, and continue to be (and let’s be honest, I have had very little to do with whether or not they were/are okay anyway).
Every time I have faced a big (or small?) life transition, I have been terrified. Moving away to college? Scared shitless. And I survived. Moving to New York when I was freshly out of college and my father was recently diagnosed with Lymphoma (if I leave will he die?!)? I don’t think I slept for three months. And I survived - in fact, I thrived. Leaving a failing marriage at 29, moving home and living with my parents while also in the middle of a career change? So frightened I thought I might literally never be UN-afraid again. But I was.
The list goes on. Graduate school, my second marriage, a new career, motherhood, etc. Fear follows me whenever I am in the midst of a life transition, but it also informs me - the path you are on is no longer sustainable and it is time to let go. Fear has become my friend and my teacher, even if it can be a royal pain in the ass. More and more I am learning to listen to my fear rather than fight it or even pathologize it.
As Pema Chodron writes, “Fear is a natural reaction to moving closer to the truth”.
I agree with her - the truth can be frightening, especially because it informs us of where we need to grow and change, as well as when we need to let go.
Listen, life is scary at times. We can’t control the big things like loss, illness, injury or ultimately, death. Life is mysterious and unknowable, and yet we think we can control it by buying into the illusion of permanence and safety.
This is where my yoga practice has been invaluable, carrying me through the last 18 years and providing me with the tools and insight to tolerate and even celebrate my fears without running from them.
My practice has taught me that in each breath, there is birth (inhale) and death (exhale). Life is a constant stream of change and impermanence, and this is felt as I inhabit the present moment through the vehicle of my embodied experience. I breathe, I move, I find stillness, and I am okay. Even if I am afraid sometimes.
As a yoga teacher and psychotherapist, many of the people I work with want to get rid of their fears and anxieties for good. I have found that even with the most robust yoga practice, strict anti-inflammatory diets, hours of talk therapy, and even psychiatric medicine that we will still experience fear and anxiety.
And when we try to deny that fear exists, it only gets stronger. Fear wants, wait - needs, to be heard. Fear and anxiety are information, often telling us when something in our lives is being neglected, repressed, and denied. It may also be telling us that our hearts are closed off to life. Fear can be the call to change and growth, but only if we listen.
We can learn to tend to ourselves, employ methods of self-care that help and heal, but I don’t believe any of us will ever be free of fear. And that, in my opinion, is a good thing.
Fear is a reminder that we are vulnerable and human. It tells us when our boundaries are being violated, when we aren’t tending to our own needs, when we aren’t listening to our hearts and our bodies, and when we are on the wrong path.
Fear is a beautiful teacher and wise sage, but I think we often misinterpret our fear as “run away!”. But what I am learning as I get older is that fear is actually telling me to run towards. Run towards what makes me uncomfortable, run towards what is calling me to growth, run towards challenge and uncertainty and vulnerability.
Because I believe it is in those moments that we are most alive and engaged in our lives. And if it means fear will accompany me during the most meaningful moments of my life, then so be it. I will feel the fear and do it anyway. And THIS is why #iamayogagirl