April 25, 2012

Love Your Fear. ~ Kathryn Visser

Photo: Kathryn Visser

Last week I came home grumpy from yoga.

My wonderfully attentive husband raised an eyebrow and called me to his lap where I spilled out all of my frustrations with my practice. I’ve been at this yoga thing for over a decade. I know I have the strength, the flexibility, and the understanding of my body to perform handstand. I am equally aware that it is my fear that prevents me.

My husband’s response was one of the biggest compliments he has ever given me.

“Honey, I love your Fear.”

In that moment I realized that I’ve always considered my fears as a bad thing, a weakness, an inadequacy. How could a man love this flaw? And even more importantly, could I?

Yoga Philosophy acknowledges the human emotion of fear, particularly the fear of death. The Sutras provide a guide, a path, towards a state of enlightenment in which even the fear of death is conquered. Pantanjali states,

“The Fear of Death is found to disappear with the acquisition of True Knowledge.’

It is the pursuit of this True Knowledge that brings me to my mat. It is in practice where I learn what I’m really made of.

I start with the vibrations. By drawing my awareness to the physical sensations, I can actually start to feel my body. I notice my clenched jaw, the tightness at the base of my neck, the looseness of my hips. Then I delve deeper in to the Knowledge of Me by consciously feeling my emotions. Sometimes there’s an immediate, superficial emotion, like frustration, that is masking something much different. I seek deeper, reveling in the texture of the emotion, the taste of the Knowledge.

Pulling from another great text, the Bible states, “The Fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.” (Proverbs 1:7).

In this context, fear is not a distressing emotion of dread but one of reverential awe. This is the kind of respect I saw in my husband’s eyes as I bemoaned my shaky attempts at handstand.

One of the dictionary’s definitions of the word sacred is, “to be reverently dedicated to some person or purpose.” That’s exactly how I feel about my yoga practice. It has been my purpose to show up every day in order to learn how to love myself. I’ve struggled with chronic depression since the age of six, and it wasn’t until I found yoga, that I began to heal.

Perhaps this seemingly frustrating emotion is one to be greatly respected. My fears are a culmination of who I am, the experiences I’ve had, and the ways I’ve chosen to interpret things. My fear is part of the girl I’m getting to know on my mat, the girl my husband loves.

As I drop below superficial feelings of inadequacy, I kick one leg up. I truly acknowledge my fear as the second leg lifts. I rest both heels on the wall and revel in the taste of it, the honest knowledge of myself, and for one brief moment my heels drift away…

Kathryn has been committed to the path of yoga for over 8 years. In regards to asana, she is certified and dedicated to the traditional lineage of Ashtanga. In addition to Ashtanga, Kathryn also teaches dynamic vinyasa flow classes and the Hot yoga series.

“I entered the door of yoga to find another way to exercise. It wasnʼt long that I realized I could let go of my destructive over-ambition and settle in to a practice that kept my body healthy while allowing myself to relax in to the beauty that is my life. I believe we are given hardships so that we can have compassion and help others who struggle with similar things. I struggle with chronic pain and depression and it is my sincere intention to use my knowledge in the field of yoga to serve those around me.”

Kathryn can be found every week teaching at the Yoga Pod.


Editor: Lynn Hasselberger

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