Facing My Fears In Asana Practice

Originally posted on Finding Isvara on June 1st, 2017

Am I a bad yogi if I talk about my difficulty and fear in a particular asana? 

We’re not supposed to do that, right? 

We get on our mat every day and do a series of postures, but we're not supposed to focus solely on the quality of our asana. Practice isn’t about the outward expression but the inward attention. It’s the quality of our breath, the calmness of our mind and how that translates into our daily lives.

We each have a pose that puts us to the test and brings up deep rooted fears. It could be at a physical, emotional or mental level.

It seems like some asanas are purposely there to make us fail and show us our weaknesses. Asana practice should teach us to be humble, patient and have faith. You put yourself in an uncomfortable position so you can observe and hopefully learn to control your reactions when faced with real-life stressful situations. As much as some poses make us want to quit, they build our determination and courage at the same time.

When I started practicing yoga, there were many poses I couldn’t do, but I don’t recall ever feeling anxiety, fear, uncertainty, doubt or resistance.

Over the past two years, all these emotions and more have come up in one single pose. No matter how much I breathe or how much I prepare myself, Kapotasana always brings up a new emotion. It’s like I am doing it for the very first time, every time. We should approach every situation as a beginner to experience it fully; but with Kapotasana, it’s a completely different sensation.

The word scary describes it best because I never know what will happen. Will I only touch my toes or catch my heels today? Will I forget to breathe and feel suffocated? Is my back going to cramp? Will my chest feel opened and relaxed? Are my legs and hips strong enough?   

It’s not about whether I can do it; I just don’t want to or even like to.

I don’t know the reason for my animosity. Mental, emotional, maybe it’s the stories I’ve heard, I’m sure you have heard them too. “You’ll be stuck there for 10 years,” “It will open the floodgates,” “It’s the deepest backbend in the Ashtanga series,” “It activates your nervous system,”  “You’ll injure your back” and so many other horror stories.

The funny thing about postures is that they don’t change, ever! They always ask the same of us. The practitioner, however, does change over time. We can choose to approach the pose with fear and aversion or with strength and courage; the practice is what we make of it. The work of each asana is never over. No matter how many times you do it, there is always something to work on, not physically, but internally. There is always a lesson to learn.

As I reflect and write this, I realize my lesson to learn is letting go of the fear of the unknown. I have a tendency to control and I want to know exactly what will happen. 

I am still finding my way and my breath. I'm learning to stay calm in Kapotasana, I haven’t given up. It will always be there waiting patiently, asking me to breath, relax, be strong and never give up.

Which asana puts you to the test?

Lots of love,

Carolyn