Overcoming Fear Of Ashtanga – A Personal Anecdote
Today, I thought I’d share a story of how I dreaded Ashtanga Yoga before I ever did it and my journey on overcoming my fear of the practice. So, let’s go back to where it all began. I remember discussing with my colleagues about my fear of Ashtanga. I have no idea how I was convinced to conquer my fear of Ashtanga Yoga by enrolling myself for the Ashtanga Basics class.
For me, I personally developed an aversion to anything where there was a possibility I might fail. Sometimes it is just easier not to try than to face the prospect of failure. Also, the idea of practising the same asana every day, refining them, deepening them and not moving on until you have perfected them seemed alien. The discipline required was also a key factor that deterred me from joining the class. For me, I lack discipline in some parts of my life. It ranges from delaying my chores, to backing out from a run the last minute because of excuses like “It’s too hot.”
Related: You are NOT flexible, but you still do Yoga
What’s Ashtanga Basics?
Before we begin, let me share with you what Ashtanga Basics is. The Ashtanga Basics class is a simplified version of Half Primary series with more detailed information regarding the postures. Also, modifications are made and the class is a slower pace of practice. Some of the standing and sitting postures of Primary Series are being skipped, to make the class accessible for beginners who have no experience with Mysore or Ashtanga Classes.
So, The Journey Begins….
The day when I had to go for my first class was dreadful as I was counting down to when the class was starting. Luckily for me, I got one of our colleagues to follow me to the Ashtanga basics class. It is always nice to have a bit of companionship to know that you aren’t doing things alone!
Marta started us off with meditation and my mind keeps going to thoughts like “What if I can’t keep up with the class?” , “I don’t think I can get into chaturanga?” and “Am I being overly ambitious to think that I can go for Ashtanga”. I believe these thoughts are reflected in my inability to stop fidgeting during this session. As I expected, we were instructed to go into the Chaturanga pose. The strength required in the shoulders, arms and core to lift the body up was truly a huge challenge for me. I really wasn’t convinced I’d ever get to a point where I know what a Chaturanga feels like.
We started off with using the belt to support the body for the Chaturanga pose. The first thought that popped into my head was “Am I even able to attempt this pose even with the prop.” I was filled with so much self-doubt, so imagine my surprise when I was finally able to get into a Chaturanga variation without my elbows jutting out of place. It was a great confidence booster despite the fact I was only able to do it with the props. At some point, I even did the Chaturanga with my knees off the mat. It was truly an encouraging experience and gave me more confidence that it was something achievable if I kept practising over time.
In my subsequent classes, I could feel a shift in attitude. I was no longer dreading the classes as much as I used to. In fact, I felt more excited about each session. Each time we are asked to go into Chaturanga, the thoughts that run through my mind became “let me see how I can improve on my pose” instead of “chaturanga again”.
At one point, I was even able to go into a shoulder stand. This was truly an exciting moment for me as I was never able to go into a supported shoulder stand in the past. Not to mention, my energy was often depleted near the end of the class that I wouldn’t have strength left to continue. When we were told to do the shoulder stand, I told myself, let’s just attempt this pose and see how it goes. Everything just clicked at that moment, and I was beaming with excitement as I tried to move into the plough pose where I clumsily struggled to place my feet on to the mat.
As cliché as it sounds, fear is truly what’s in the mind. In my experience, fear is feeling out of control and letting self-doubt and self-judgment creep in, causing further anxiety and negativity. These feelings apply to my journey both on and off the mat. By going for the Ashtanga Basic class, I was pushed to move slightly out of my comfort zone. The discipline of the practice was also something that I can apply more in the way I approach my life. Overall, this was a great opportunity for me to observe and reflect on how I deal with moments on the mat and in life.