Free Thought Forum: Week 1 – Are all yogis afraid?

Via on Jun 13, 2011

A few weeks ago, we opened up a forum to free thought. It was the first of its type here on Elephant Yoga, and the goal was simply to generate discussion. We didn’t have a specific plan (we still don’t, by the way, so I hope you like going with the flow). We had no theme, no guidelines, and no word count suggestions.

Funny enough, even though the forum was completely open, the blogs seemed to share a theme. Fear.

Does it seem odd a community of supposedly “blissed out” and enlightened yogis with an open forum to talk about absolutely anything should choose fear?

Daphne describes the fear she felt at behaving “un-yoga-like” despite working hard at her practice. She says, “I’m trying to bring the elements of yoga into my life and to approach every situation from a point of awareness, gratitude and flexibility. I am trying to breathe though the stress of a divorce, a debilitating hip injury, a son diagnosed with depression and having $12.14 cents left in my bank account every month after all my bills are paid.”

Thanks to One Flow Yoga Studio for the photo

Daniel says of his first experience in a studio, “I’d arrived full of worry that I smelled of smoke. And now I was fretting I didn’t look suitably yogic, which could only reveal how angst-ridden I was.”

Toni talks of the struggle with chronic illness saying, “The first few years after becoming sick, I blamed myself for not recovering—as if not regaining my health were a failure of will, somehow, or a deficit of character. This is a common reaction for people to have toward their illness.”

Susi shared anxieties of opening up to a woman circle. She says, “But as the time approached, I became increasingly nervous about going. My anxiety wasn’t about teaching nor do I have any fear of flying. It wasn’t even that almost every person I told about the retreat said, “You better be careful…a lot of people are getting killed there.” No, I was anxious because I had researched sacred circles – the basis of the retreat – and realized I was probably going to have to talk about myself.

Chelsea also admits uncertainty about the journey within. In a poem, she says:

It takes real, grueling work to open up and step away from these ideas of self.

What will you be without them? What shame will surface?

Will I be right to have, at times, despised myself?

Will I learn that I actually neglected myself instead?

Johan uses this fear as a turning point, saying, “In that moment, when we look in the mirror and we either decide to fight or we decide to succumb to fear and sadness and self pity is the moment where we find out who we are, for better or worse.”

This sentiment is echoed by Dionne, who describes fear in this way. “We can see it for what it really is. A feeling. That is possible to change at any moment. What is really interesting is when we start to explore a little deeper into the seat of this particular feeling.

Swami Satyananda Saraswati believed the goal of yoga was to completely overcome fear to the point one did not even fear death. It seems like we’re not getting there.

Is the journey to the yoga mat a journey into fear? What are we afraid of? Ourselves? Not appearing “yoga like?” Having to open up to feelings that are hard to face? Not living up to society’s standards?

What are your feelings about fear and its place on the yoga mat?

Write your own blog in response as a comment below. If you already have a blog, you are welcome to cut and paste here, with a link to your blog, of course. You’re encouraged to take on the topic of fear, but this is a completely open discussion, so have at it.

About Open Yoga Blogging Community

Welcome to Elephant's Open Yoga Blogging Community where you can write whatever you like, and others can comment. Elephant writer Bethany Eanes has generously agreed to serve as discussion moderator. 1) Write your own blogs as comments here. If you already have a blog, you are welcome to cut and paste your best blogs here. 2) To subscribe and get e-mail notices, write a comment or reply, choosing to get e-mail notification for either just replies to that comment, or to all comments. 3) Register with Intense Debate and enter your bio, photo, and links there. This will appear in a pop-up when a reader mouses over your photo. 4) We will excerpt the best entries and discussions in the next week’s Community Blog. Some will become Elephant Yoga articles. --Bob W. Yoga Editor

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14 Responses to “Free Thought Forum: Week 1 – Are all yogis afraid?”

  1. From Facebook:

    Lorin Basden Arnold V. interesting to see how this theme came up again and again! And, regular yoga bloggers should also check out http://yiomsite.com/ for yoga blogging network connections.

    elephantjournal.com Hi, Lori. Yes, you've got a great thing going there. Another great place for sharing blogs. I hope to see a healthy interchange between the EY Open Blogging Communityand #YIOM on Twitter. We welcome #YIOM bloggers to post their best stuff on the EY Community, and we encourage bloggers to get involved with /#YIOM. Plus, a number of #YIOM bloggers have had articles published on Elephant, the most recent of which is "Some Like It Hot" http://bit.ly/jpD8vd –Bob W.

  2. macpanther says:

    I've learned from my short time as a Unitarian Universalist that doubt is as valuable as faith. Indeed, I've come to think non-dualistically about doubt and faith. So, too, one might think this way of fear and courage. Fear provides information, and provides an opportunity for courage, a heart-centered virtue.

    To fail to acknowledge fear is to lack awareness, and miss an opportunity for courage. To be merely blissful, thinking positively, may be to be blissfully ignorant. To read more of what I think about the topic of "existential courage," a way to think positively in the face of full awareness of doubt, fear and suffering, please see the first public post of my blog The Considered Kula. http://wp.me/p1liiv-1m

  3. Fear, and it’s place on the yoga mat?
    This brings me to a favorite quote: ” If your dream isn’t scary, it’s not big enough!”
    I think that if you don’t allow yourself to feel some kind of fear on your mat, you are not moving forward. Feeling the fear, but moving forward anyways takes courage. I believe our feelings on the mat, are a direct correlation to our feelings and habits off the mat. If we stay in the safe, routine within our practice, if we never push the envelope, then we never feel the courage to go beyond, to break through barriers of fear, and come out closer to our truest selves.
    Feeling fear on the mat, brings awareness, and awareness brings upon growth.
    Fear on the mat you say? Bring it on!
    - Chelsea Welch, South Bay Yoga Instructor

    • Bethany Eanes says:

      I loved this quote so much, I used it on my personal blog this morning, and I didn't even see it was from you (for other users, Chelsea is one of my yoga instructors). Thanks for sharing!

  4. tanya lee markul says:

    Great article – really touches on a lot of things I have experienced myself (and probably most everybody). Thank you for this.

    Posting to Elephant Yoga on Facebook and Twitter.

    Tanya Lee Markul, Assoc. Yoga Editor
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  5. Emily Perry says:

    Fear is one of the first things that come up us on the mat, right? I mean, that is totally natural. It is our work to come back to the mat anyway, so that we can learn to be afraid and just "go do it" anyway.

    But I also think, at times, fear is really just masking shame, or guilt, or our desire to belong, or the way in which we are avoiding the truth, the satya, of our lives. And once we can go just a bit deeper and see those things, we can unfurl them and give them less power. Expose them for what they are, and move on.

    • Bethany Eanes says:

      Interesting thought. Is "fear" just a name we give to other emotions we're not as in touch with?

  6. BethanysPen says:

    Feeling grateful for your fear is a very yogic concept! Thanks for sharing.

  7. Just posted to "Popular Lately" on the Elephant Yoga homepage.

    Bob W. Yoga Editor
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  8. [...] least that is what I gather from the responses to last week’s answer to the question, “Are all yogis afraid?” Most of our bloggers answered this question with a resounding, “YES!!” We are, [...]

  9. [...] week of our experimental open forum for bloggers everywhere. The first week we took on the topic of fear, and the second week we tackled duality (or non-duality as some bloggers pointed out). Fear and [...]

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  11. Diane says:

    Right on! Thank you for this!

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