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How Yoga Taught Me Not to Fear New Things

By , SparkPeople Blogger
I am a creature of habit. I eat the same breakfast and lunch every day, I do certain household chores on the same days each week and my workout schedule basically follows the same structure no matter what (strength training on Mondays, running on Tuesdays, etc.). Part of this is due to my personality—I like structure and predictability—and part is out of necessity—I have four kids in a lot of activities, I work and I exercise daily. It wouldn't be possible to get as much done if it weren't for a routine.

Although this structure allows me to be very efficient, it's also made me very hesitant to try new things over the years. I either convince myself I don't have time, or the anxiety of stepping out of my comfort zone is more than I wanted to deal with. That is until three years ago.

After years of watching my kids do martial arts, I decided to try Muay Thai kickboxing. It was a totally new experience and, honestly, I was terrified. Despite my anxieties and trepidations, I discovered a passion that continues to be a positive part of my life and my routine. Now, whenever I'm worried about trying something new, I use that experience as a reminder that new things can be scary, but they can also be great.

Facing My Fears Through Yoga

I've known for years that yoga would be good for me to try. Not only am I very inflexible, but I've always considered myself to be an anxious person. Perhaps it's just part of who I am or maybe it's all the responsibilities piled on my plate, but it has always been very difficult for me to shut my mind off and just be still. For these reasons and many more, I've intended to try yoga for years, but always put it off for fear of the unknown. What if I had no idea what to do? What if everyone in the class could do headstands, and there I'd be, barely able to touch my toes?

When I turned 40 last year, I made myself a promise: Try a yoga class. Any yoga class, just try. Sounds simple enough, yes, but I kept putting it off. As my 40th year was coming to an end, I decided it was time to follow through and check out a class. I asked a friend about a nearby studio, and when she said she'd never been but would be happy to go with me, that was enough incentive to finally make it happen.

Upon arrival, we informed the instructor that neither of us had done yoga, which he assured us would be fine. "Everyone goes at their own pace and everyone's practice is different," he explained.  About halfway through the class, I realized that this is a big thing that's been missing in my life.

Over the course of that hour, I came to understand why regular yogis rave so much about the benefits of a regular routine. Just giving myself a minute to breathe and slow down left me feeling calmer and allowed me to forget about my to-do list for a little while. It wasn't scary at all! I left wondering why it had taken me so long to gather the courage to try it for the first time.

5 Ways to Prevent Fear from Winning

Change is hard and can be really scary. That's one reason changing your habits and developing a healthy lifestyle can feel overwhelming. Creating a new daily routine, trying new foods, exercising for the first time—all of these things sound like a lot when you've spent years living a certain way. But what if you're allowing fear to hold you back from some of the best experiences of your life? Sometimes it just takes that first step, to put yourself out there and say, "I'm ready for something new." If you've found the first step to be difficult, here are five things to consider.
  1. If it's hard to do it alone, do like I did and grab a buddy for support. It could be someone who's just around if you need them, someone who is making similar changes to their life and can relate to what you're doing, or a workout buddy who makes heading out for a walk or a trip to the gym a little easier.
  2. Take things one step at a time. I was so busy trying to predict how the class was going to go, what the instructor would be like, how clueless I'd feel and how crowded it would be that I got myself worked up for no reason. Focus on the first step needed to try whatever it is you want to do and stop attempting to predict the future. Everyone was a beginner once, so don't let a fear of the unknown keep you from stepping outside your comfort zone.
  3. Remember that everyone isn't watching you the way you think they are. Part of my fear with yoga class was that everyone would be judging me. In reality, no one was paying an ounce of attention to what I was doing. They were there for themselves, just as I was. Do you feel self-conscious when you go to the grocery store and you're stumbling over the labels in the natural foods section? No one is analyzing what goes into your grocery cart. Are you worried your dinner companions will be judging the healthy meal you order at a restaurant? Chances are they're focused only on great conversation and good company. Be confident in your choices because you're doing it for you and no one else.
  4. Prepare ahead of time to reduce anxiety. I researched which yoga class I wanted to take and even watched a few YouTube videos to get an idea of what to expect before I stepped through the studio doors. When it comes to food, plan your meals in advance and check out restaurant menus online before you go. Reducing the number of unknowns is likely to reduce your fears about doing something different.
  5. Think about how you'll feel if you don't do it. The last thing you want is to live your life with regret that you "should've" or "could've" done something you always wanted to try. What's the worst thing that's going to happen if you try? At the very least, you experience something new and maybe learn a little more about yourself. At most, you discover a passion you never knew you needed.
One of my favorite quotes is from actress Mary Pickford: "You may have a fresh start any moment you choose, for this thing that we call 'failure' is not the falling down, but the staying down." Don't be afraid of what might happen if you fail; be afraid of not knowing what could happen if you try.

Have you ever let fear keep you from trying something you really wanted to do? Were you able to work through it and, if so, how?

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