Yoga for Courage

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It has been a long while since my last blog post. I apologize. I was wrapped up in the goings on of my own world and got out of the habit. Then the longer it went on, the more of a deal it became. I was worried about what you might think and also about what I would say. I was stuck in a place of fear. I finally realized (with some encouragement from friends) that I just had to take a breath and jump back in. So here we go …

What is it that pushes you to do things even when you are scared?

I asked my son Charlie this question. He got called on to do chin-ups in his karate test Monday evening. Six weeks ago he tried and couldn’t even do one. I asked what he was thinking as he walked up to the bar this time.

He said there were two things. First, he said, I just trying to stay calm and not freak out. Good strategy. In his book 10% Happier, Dan Harris says that your inner voice can be an asshole. But you don’t have to listen to it. Second, Charlie said that he put all his focus into doing chin-ups. That’s it. Nothing else mattered. He just did the task at hand.

When frozen by fear, how do you get unstuck? How do you continue on despite feeling overwhelmed?

Here are a few of things that might help.

1. Know your why
I am scared every time I get up in front of a class to teach yoga. I don’t love being in front of a group. But I want every person in my class to have a positive experience with yoga. I want them to get something out of the practice. I want them to love it like I do and leave bettered in some way. I think everyone can benefit from yoga and I want to help them figure out how. That is my why and it is bigger than my fear of teaching.

2. Don’t let your thoughts control you.
You are in charge. Counter negative thoughts and negative self talk with positive. Look for examples of people who have successfully done what you want to do. If they can do it, why not you? Remember that you don’t have to believe everything you think.

3. Take action
Just do it. What’s the next step? Take it. No matter how small, it will move you forward. It’s so easy to get stuck in analyzing the hell out of things (I do this way too much …) Decide on the next step and put your energy into doing that one thing. Then figure out the next step.

4. Strengthen you courage muscle
You can build up courage like you workout a muscle. You won’t banish fear forever but you may find less resistance next time you are faced with a tough situation. Manipura, the third chakra (energy center) is all about courage and strength. When this chakra is in balance, you feel a sense of confidence and inner power and are more willing to take risks. Manipura is located around your solar plexus/navel area. It is associated with the element of fire and the energy of transformation.

Practice specific yoga poses to spark your inner fire. These include Sun Salutations, abdominal strengtheners such as Navasana (boat pose) and leg lifts. Manipura is involved in warrior energy. Practice strong standing poses such as Virbhadrasana 1 and 2 as well as twists. I have included a short strengthening sequence at the end of this email. Try it out and please let me know how it goes!

Charlie ended up getting 3.5 chin-ups in karate. He has done some strength training and it paid off. But I was especially proud that he was able to overcome his own thoughts and just go for it.

What in your life frightens you right now? How do you get past the fear? Hit reply to share your thoughts or just to say hello. I always love hearing from you. And thank you all for the kind words over the past few months. It meant a lot.

Yoga Sequence for Courage

(Download the Visual Version of the sequence here)

This short sequence warms your and builds strength. Ad you go through, focus on feeling the warrior energy and moving from your navel chakra, your place of inner strength. Hold each pose for 5 long, strong breaths. Do the full series on one side then move to the other side.

Mountain Pose (Tadasana)
Stand with your feet about hip width apart. Root your feet into your mat. Engage your thighs and your quadriceps. Imagine the crown of your head lifting toward the ceiling. Relax your shoulders.

Warrior 1 (Virabhadrasana I)
Step one foot back about three to four feet. Feet are hip width apart. Front foor is pointed forward. The back foot is at a 45-degree angle. Bend your front knee so you are in a lunge position. Hips face the front of your mat. Lift your arms to the ceiling, palms inward, biceps by your ears. Gaze forward.

Pyramid Pose (Parsvottanasana)
Straighten your front leg. Keep feet hip-width apart. Toes of your front foot are pointing forward. Your back foot is turned out slightly (45 degrees). Inhale to lengthen your spine. Exhale and fold forward over your from leg. Bring your hands to either side of the front foot for balance.

Warrior 2 (Virabhadrasana II)
Bend into your front knee again. Turn your back foot to a 90-degree angle, parallel to the back of your mat. Front toes point forward. Front heel is inline with the middle of the back foot (like you are standing on train tracks). Hips are open to the side. Stretch your arms out at shoulder height, palms down. Set your gaze to your front fingers. Your torso is upright.

Triangle (Trikonasana)
Straighten your front leg. Front foot points forward. Back foot is turned out parallel to the back of your mat. Raise you arms parallel to the floor. Extend your torso over the front leg, bending at your hip. Rest your lower hand on your shin, ankle or the floor. Extend the upper hand towards the ceiling.

Extended Side Angle (Utthitta Parsvakonasana)
Bend the front knee. Bring the front elbow down to the front knee. Inhale the back arm up towards the ceiling. Exhale the arm over the ear, palm down.

Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)
Bring your hands to the mat on either side of the front foot. Step the front foot back. Press your hips up toward the ceiling. You will look like an upside-down “V.” Press your chest towards your knees and your heels toward the floor. Press into the mat with your hands. Relax your head and neck.

Photo courtesy of Anthony Crider

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