Saturday, January 28, 2012

Courage vs. Fear

When we are fearful our bodies have a certain physical and mental response. Yoga can help us with this.
When we are faced with fear, Yoga Philosophy encourages us to practice the opposite.  If we are faced with a situation or thought which makes us fearful we can consider doing something courageous instead. Sounds easy in theory, but what can we do when our bodies shift into a state of fight or flight?

First approach:
1) Identify the fear, (ex. I am afraid of public speaking)
2) Try to accept it.  Perhaps the fear then subsides to a concern...
3) Do what you are afraid of anyway... (What is the worse that can happen?)

Second approach:
Look at an area where you are courageous, like skiing, and apply the courage that it takes to ski to something that you are afraid of. (Contemplate how when you first started skiing you might have been fearful, but the more you did it the more courageous you became.)

In addition, our bodies respond to our conscious and unconscious fears.  Our heart -rate quickens, our breath becomes shallow and isolated to our chest, and our body hunches over and rounds forward to protect our vital organs.  All as if we are preparing to be attacked.  Much of this physical response is unconscious, but if we can learn to become aware of our bodies response we can do things to change them.

Deep Breathing into the diaphragm/belly
Deep breathing increases the oxygen and blood flow to the brain.   Oxygenated blood cleanses the blood stream from stress hormones.
Chest opening stretches to counter the protective posture
Forward bends to surrender to the peace in this moment and offer a new perspective.

The above actions came be done at the times we experience fear, but we can also practice these actions when we practice yoga so that our body remembers how to respond.
Also, movements like spinal twists and side bends massage and soak the organs.  Especially, the liver and kidneys where toxins are stored due to habitual stress response.
When practicing Yoga visualize a small fear and then imagine a courageous behavior that you already possess. Imagine this while doing your physical Asana practice and reinforce the learning in our minds and bodies.

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