It has become increasingly apparent to me that many people are being bombarded with messages of fear. I believe that joy and fear are opposites. Fear is what stops many of us from making choices that we know in our heart are right. The idea that someone else knows better than you is the exact message that our government and the media want us to believe. This month we explore dhanurasana, a backbend. Backbending in general is about exposing our soft underbelly. Of all the backbends, this one allows for a bit of protection since we are on the floor. However, it is a good metaphor for exploring our beliefs and values in a safe environment. I am an advocate for trusting one’s instincts. I am also an advocate for doing one’s homework. This means making informed choices about what is best for you and your family.
Yoga practice is a testing ground for hearing and listening to our instincts. Being honest in your yoga practice means hearing the signals your body is giving you and responding to them. Honesty in your life is the same thing. In yoga practice we take the time to slow down, quiet down, listen to our breath, move consciously, and make room for our truth to emerge. Does that sound esoteric or flakey to you? It very well may, but my point is that the idea of getting centered and calm is not just for practicing asana; it is for life.
As I explore my own choices for food, schooling, work time, family time, I have many discussions with others. The discussions that I have with my friends and family are often lively and sometimes heated, but always helpful in deepening my own convictions and sometimes changing my mind. What I do not find constructive in my life or in these interactions is the injection of fear. Fear is in general a completely destructive and impeding emotion.
Last month I talked a bit about avidya, incorrect perception. One of of the types of avidya is abhinivesa— fear. Trust, joy, and education are oppositional to abhinivesa. It is good to make choices because your instincts and your heart tell you what you need to do. It is not productive to live in a state of fear.
Spring is a time of year for openness, new life, and new possibilities. Enjoy the process of exposing your true self in a safe place. This means in your yoga practice and your life. It is a good rule of thumb to find safe and construtive environments for testing grounds of new ideas and choices. Decide who and where in your life you feel supported, loved, and safe. Notice where in your life you feel fearful or under attack. It is good to put yourself in positions where you feel challenged (think a new and difficult asana). It is not good to put yourself in positions where you feel fearful. Fear creates an environment of stess and resistance. In a yoga class, if you are afraid of a posture, your body will respond by tightening up. This response almost insures that you will get hurt if you go farther (self-fulfilling prophecy!).
Fear can be a very helpful and valuable emotion. When appropriate, it will keep you safe. When inapproriate, it will keep you stuck in old patterns and unable to make change (samskara).
Enjoy this month of exploration, new life and challenge. Enjoy your practice and more importantly enjoy your life!