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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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BILLTHOMSON 12/10/2018
Just starting to learn about yoga Report
LOVE yoga. Helps me meditate and stretch my muscles out when I'm hurting or injured. Very helpful!! Report
Very interesting! Report
JEWELZEE- 6/8/2018
Going to the Friday yoga class is my "treat" for all the cardio and strength training workouts. Report
I love yoga ! Report
PROT358 6/4/2018
To those who think traditional yoga isn't right for you, I have a recommendation. There is a fairly new workout from BeachBody called PiYo, which is a Pilates/yoga fusion class. It is not boring! And it is easy to make the moves easier or more difficult. Report
CECELW 5/19/2018
yoga bores me Report
ARTJAC 5/15/2018
IRONADONIS 5/15/2018
Thanks. Report
BIKE4HEALTH 5/14/2018
I tried Yoga in the pool at the club and it was amazing.....much more effective for getting those poses I cant usually get. Report
JAMER123 5/13/2018
Quite interesting. Thank you. Report
CECELW 5/11/2018
I'm amazed with people who do yoga. I get bored with it. Report
PLCHAPPELL 5/11/2018
Good validation article Report
AMYRCMK 5/10/2018
Thank you Report
RAPUNZEL53 5/10/2018
Interesting. Report
PAMBACH 5/10/2018
You described perfectly how I felt about yoga! I have been practicing regularly for three years now. During that time I have lost 50 pounds in addition to what I had already lost. But more importantly yoga has taught me to trust myself. To remain calmer. To do yoga when I am stressed and feel most resistant to being active. I adore it and cannot recount all the good things it has done for me. I stand proud to be a YOGI! Report
I'm a certified yoga teacher. The main reason I got certified was so that I could help break the stereotype of what a yoga teacher looks like. Yoga is such a great tool to help build resiliency, reduce stress and increase mindfulness. Kudos to you! Report
AJB121299 5/10/2018
nice Report
PATRICIA-CR 5/10/2018
Very encouraging! I love yoga. Report
I always regret the things I didn't do more tha the things I did. Report
LIS193 5/10/2018
Great article - I love yoga and this really spoke to me Report
JSTETSER 5/10/2018
What a well written, encouraging article. Thanks! Report
JSTETSER 5/10/2018
What a well written, encouraging article. Thanks! Report
LOSER05 5/10/2018
thanks. Report
PACEKA1 5/10/2018
I love this article and I so love yoga! It's my little bit of peace in what can otherwise be a crazy day. It's my few minutes of mindfulness. For some reason all my thoughts fade away while I'm doing my yoga. My church is teaching Praise Moves which is basically reciting bible verses while holding yoga poses. I tried it once but found it very distracting. When I'm in a yoga pose I want to be mindful of what my body is doing and how it is feeling. I really enjoyed your article! I am pushing myself to try one new class or piece of equipment each week at my gym! Getting myself out of my comfort zone. Report
PICKIE98 5/10/2018
Yoga did not remove fear, my faith did. I like my yoga, though. Report
PICKIE98 5/10/2018
Yoga did not remove fear, my faith did. I like my yoga, though. Report
AZMOMXTWO 5/10/2018
thank you Report
KRISKECK 5/10/2018
Jen, what a great article, thank you for sharing. It's great that you overcame your anxiety and fear to try yoga. Clearly, anxiety is at the root of so much of our negative habits, overeating and drinking, the list goes on and on. So anything that helps reduce that anxiety helps us with other goals too. Report
I can identify with overcoming concern about yoga. My pastor at the time preached that yoga was sinful and part of satanic wordship. My parents thought you must be a hippy on drugs to do yoga. My gym friends used to say yoga was not a real workout. So after about 40 years of that crap, I grew to the point of following my heart. Now I love yoga, try to practice every day, and blasted off into a whole new world of holistic, spiritual, and very nurturing lifestyle. Thanks for the chance to remember when, and to celebrate the breakthroughs. Report
RO2BENT 5/10/2018
There are always 100 reasons to not do something Report
NEPTUNE1939 5/10/2018
TY Report
I liked parts of the Yoga experiences in the past, but being deaf, hanging upside down in downward dog does weird things to my ability to understand what the teacher is saying... so then I end up hurting myself because I didn't understand, or just felt dumb because I didn't understand what she was talking about (I know some of it is just general banter trying to keep people focused...but still, I want to feel included!). I got a dvd of a deaf lady teaching yoga and it's all in ASL, but ASL is not my native language...there again, can't really see well enough with my vision issues to tell what people are signing (even my text, as I am typing this, is blurry and "double vision" - ish - because of the astigmatism and cataracts....)... So I haven't gone back to any yoga in months and years now. Report
MNABOY 5/9/2018
Thanks for sharing Report
EO4WELLNESS 5/9/2018
Interesting POV Report
TINABLEAP 5/9/2018
Yoga can help in your life is so many ways beyond the physical. I'm glad you went to that first class. Report
JUNETTA2002 5/9/2018
Thanks for sharing. Good information Report
ETCH12 5/9/2018
You have a fresh start any moment you choose. I really like this. Thank you for sharing. Report
MOONDRAGON29 5/9/2018
great tips Report
DEE107 5/9/2018
good article Report
ZRIE014 5/9/2018
very good article Report
RHOOK20047 5/8/2018
Good article with useful information. Report
lot of good information Report
USMAWIFE 5/8/2018
great article Report
KHALIA2 5/8/2018
A really great article! This one inspired me. Thank you! Report
MAYIE53 5/8/2018
I am afraid to get back on my bike after being hit by a car Oct 16, 2017. The injuries I sustained were life changing but I continue to improve. I absolutely loved riding my bike. It made me feel alive. I will consider what you have written in this article as I work through whatever issues are holding me back. Thank you for posting. Report
NANCYPAT1 5/8/2018
Wonderful Report
NANCYPAT1 5/8/2018
Wonderful Report
JANIEWWJD 5/8/2018
Good tips!!! Report
KATHYJO56 5/8/2018
I am also a creature of habit and keep on a schedule. I always eat the same lunch and breakfast also. I have always hated yoga because it is too passive for me, but I may give it a try again after reading this Report