I grew up like every proper child should--completely terrified of the monster that lived beneath my bed.
I had a lineup of about 20 stuffed animals at the foot of my bed. During the day they enjoyed tea parties with me. By dark they served as my Swiss Guard. Every time I would hear a bump in the night, I could rest assured that Teddy One through 20 were prepared to swallow my fears and release their fluffy, furious claws on the perpetrator.
I chuckle now in memory of those simple times. As we grow up, the fear of the mattress-dwelling demon slowly exorcizes itself. The childhood monsters morph into more substantial fears swirling around money, love, ego and security. These fears can become so intense that they literally rule our lives, decisions and relationships. People stay in unhappy marriages and miserable jobs because change is even more threatening than what lies on the other side--the potential for growth.
Growing pains are exactly that -- painful. It often takes a brave jump into a freezing sea full of sharp-teethed 'possibly-maybe' piranhas (pranas--bad yoga joke) in order to learn how to swim and breathe underwater.
Simply put, growth stems from challenges. Challenges not only test our abilities, but show us our innate potential. Once we get a taste of our own potential, the challenges cease to strike a chord. Potential and growth then kick fear's sorry self out on the street.
I wish I could offer a simple fearless potion Costco style, but I do possess the next best thing--yoga. Yoga is a magnificent tool in the exploration of fearless growth. A common translation of yoga is 'to unite.' And the union of dualities in yoga is seemingly endless.
Lovingly abandoned. Compassionately courageous. Powerfully surrendered. Playfully disciplined.
All of these dualities come to mind when fear hits the scene. These are the tools used to encourage the rehab of a fear junkie. The yoga mat serves as a five-star rehabilitation center--with the added benefit of being mobile, personal and paparazzi-free. The yoga postures, or asanas, act as tools to harvest fear, stare it directly in its ugly face and realize you're stronger than the monster you've let grip you.
I often use arm balance and inversion work in my teachings specifically for this reason. These beautiful postures inspire and intimidate students. With an emphasis on the intimidation--at least at first.
"Oh, no. I can't do that pose," they'll say. "My body couldn't possibly do that."
Of course, this is said before the pose is even attempted. The power behind that negative comment is extremely potent. When you tell yourself you can't do something--guess what? You won't. You've immediately weighed yourself down with the mental baggage of disbelief. Fear to attempt in fear that you'll fall. This leaves us stagnant and void of faith.
But yoga teaches us to say:
"You know, I've never tried this pose before. Even the thought challenges me, but the prospect is thrilling. I'm going to give it a go."
You may fall on your face 100 times before you achieve the pose--I certainly have. The ego bruises much worse than the body, but the beating helps to quiet it. The funny thing is, once you believe in yourself and begin to loosen the grip on the fear, you actually enjoy the challenge. You might find yourself laughing when you fall down instead of feeling frustration. It isn't the end point of the pose that makes us fearless, but the journey that gets us there.
I encourage everyone to embark boldly on this journey. Step forward. Believe. Fall down. Laugh. Learn. Try again. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Let your hair down and just enjoy the amazing ride.
And my most sincere apologies to all future unemployed teddy bears.
How To Do Crow Pose:
Test out the waters with this instructional video on how to do Crow Pose (Bakasana). I filmed this during an interview with MindBodyGreen (thus the wearing of earrings and denim. Just goes to show you don't need full yoga gear or even a mat do do yoga)! Remember: be patient, breathe, explore the path forward and not just the destination. Laugh and play. This is a project to absorb and be enjoyed. All my best.