Recently, one of my yoga teachers gave a dharma talk on fear. She described how fear shows up in the body and how spoke about how to overcome fear with yoga. First, we need to understand where fear shows up, she explained.
According to my teacher, one of the places we hold fear is the psoas muscles. Another—odd as it seems—is the sides of the feet!
Learning how to overcome fear with yoga is a twofold process. We want to face fear, and we also want to eliminate it. Yes, yoga can help us do both!
How to Overcome Fear With Yoga
In this class on how to overcome fear, my teacher asked us all what poses we did not like. After everyone had answered, she suggested one reason we may not like the poses is because of fear. Of course, that’s often true. We fear falling or injury. Or we may simply fear appearing inadequate if we can’t manage to do a pose.
As you might have guessed, we then practiced every student’s most dreaded pose! (Our teacher was also kind enough to ask for our favorite pose and include those as well!) For the record, my dreaded pose is Hanuman asana. My favorite poses are (most) twists.
I’m not sure I fear Hanuman asana as much as I dread its difficulty. I don’t like the discomfort of not being able to do the pose with ease. I suppose in that sense dread is a form of fear.
When it comes to poses that scare me, I always remember my fear of headstand until the first time I did it. Now, I’m happy it’s something I can do. (I wonder if I’ll ever feel that way about the splits.)
The point is we overcome fear by facing it. We need to sit with it to dispel it.
Yoga Practices for Managing Fear
There are yoga poses we can do when we feel afraid to lessen dread and anxiety. These are not poses that scare us, but poses that release fear from our bodies. One, as I learned from my teacher, involves the outer edge of the foot.
How can you overcome fear by addressing the outer edge of your foot? I’m glad you asked!
Lie on your back and wrap a strap around your right foot. With the left leg flat on the ground, lift the right leg up toward the ceiling.
Hold the left side of the strap with your right hand and the right side of the strap with your left hand. Now pull more with the left hand than the right. You’ll feel this more on the outer edge of the foot.
Then do the reverse with the strap wrapped around the left foot so you feel the stretch on the outer edge of that foot.
Since we tend to store fear in the psoas muscle (along the outer part of the hip), poses that open the hips and work the psoas, such as pigeon pose, can also help release fear from the body.
Other poses that work the psoas are
- tree pose
- warrior one
- camel pose
- reclined hero pose
Another way to overcome fear with yoga is to practice alternate nostril breathing. This classic breathing exercise calms the mind and quiets the thoughts that can cause anxiety.
How to Overcome Fear Off the Mat
These exercises are great tools for calming the body when we’re anxious or afraid. But there are other ways we find ourselves managing fear with yoga. The whole practice teaches us we’re more able than we think to face and overcome what scares us.
Yoga teacher and author Kathryn Livingston agrees. “Fear dwells and grows in the uncertainty of the future: its greatest adversary is a yogi (or yogini!) who trusts and lives in the all that is now,” she writes in her story of transformation through yoga.
Fear is just another adversary a yoga lifestyle can help us defeat!
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Hi, I’m Maria. I created Yoga Circles for you if you want to delve more deeply into the philosophy, practice, and life-changing effects of yoga. I’m also a writer and editor who helps small business owners, wellness professionals, teachers, and authors publish books, develop marketing strategies, and connect with readers, clients, and students. Visit my website (link below) for more about that. I’d love to hear from you!