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June 13, 2011

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

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.

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