Yoga, the crow and challenging our worst fears!

9th March 2020

I’ve dipped in and out of yoga for the last twenty years, but it’s really only been in the last six or seven years that I feel it’s been a regular part of my own self-care. It’s that time in the week where everything else fades into the background, and all that’s important is what’s happening to my breath and my body. It’s also a massive boost that the teacher we have is brilliant and my fellow yogis are a lovely and friendly bunch who don’t take things too seriously!

What I lack in ability I try and make up for in enthusiasm. There are a lot of yoga poses that aside from technique require you to take a leap of faith, when your head’s telling you ‘No way can I do that!” but you nudge yourself just a little bit to give it a go!

Which brings me onto me and the crow!!

It doesn’t look too dangerous does it? If you don’t get your balance right however, and don’t keep your gaze forward, there’s a distinct possibility of a face plant and/or a broken nose! Nice eh?? At a much less extreme level there’s also the loss of face or fear of looking ridiculous in front of others. Trying this for the first time was definitely a WTF moment for me!!

There are lots of things in our everyday lives that can send our heads into “WTF are you doing mode?” aren’t there? Whether it’s a presentation at work; challenging your boss; standing up for yourself or even asking for what you need. What gets in the way is what’s going on behind the eyes – and the barriers that we imagine and dwell on, out of fear and uncertainty.

It’s one of those poses that literally requires me to bypass what’s going on in my head and go for it anyway. Not that I’ve ever managed it for more than a nanosecond – but I do try! I can see the benefits but I’m very much aware of the battle that rages in my head in the build up to it.

What if I DO face plant or fall over? What if I make a mistake? What if I fail? What if I look stupid? So many what if’s!!!

One thing that yoga has definitely taught me is that if I can just trust myself and get my head out of the way, I can make a reasonable stab at things. Does it really matter if it’s not perfect, or if it’s not as good as someone else’s? My crow is definitely not perfect. She’s a bit wonky and only takes flight for a split second but I’m at least giving it a go.

When we worry and stress about something, we make it much bigger, we pile layers on top. The thing gets scarier the more we ruminate over it. What started out as something small, assumes a much greater importance in our minds and the barriers to achieving it feel unsurmountable. 

There are lots of things we can do to manage fear and anxiety when we’re worried. Here’s one suggestion, which I’ve used with a number of my clients just recently.

Putting your thoughts on trial

In her book “how to be yourself”, Ellen Hendrickson talks about “putting your thoughts on trial.” When the rumination starts you can begin to challenge your thoughts by asking yourself;

  • How bad would if it did happen? What REALLY is the worst case scenario? 
  • What are the odds of it happening? How likely is it to happen, REALLY?
  • What would I do if it did happen? How would I cope?

What I love about this idea is that it’s a way of taking the sting and fear that comes out of leaving the “what if…?” questions hanging unanswered. It’s a great way of engaging the rational, thinking part of the brain and consequently begins to calm down the emotional part.

Fear is a perfectly natural response. We’re hard wired to spot danger and there’s a part of the brain that is just trying to keep us safe, be that physically or psychologically. The trouble is, the alarm can be going off in response to something that isn’t really real or present in that moment.

Next time you’re bracing yourself for something tough, take a moment to notice the fears and think about how you could challenge them, so they don’t take hold. 

Like me and my wonky crow, maybe there are some smaller steps that you can take that will begin to prove to you that your worst fears won’t be realised and that if you trust yourself you CAN do a good enough job of things!! 

If you’d like to challenge your own thinking and are ready to make some lasting changes to how you approach what’s keeping you stuck, please feel free to get in touch!