Paramahansa Yogananda, whose life is chronicled in the yoga classic Autobiography of a Yogi, said, “To be fit for self-realization, man must be fearless.” Yoga can make you fearless. It can also make you powerful!
The theme of fearlessness often comes up in yoga, particularly when students are learning challenging poses. But what does it mean to be fearless, and how can yoga make you fearless?
The word “fearless” may conjure up images of death-defying stunts and extreme risk-taking, but to be fearless really means to have faith. It’s also been said that fear is the opposite of love, so being fearless means acting with love.
Be Fearless, Not Reckless
There’s a difference between being fearless and being reckless. Recklessness is acting boldly without concern for the consequences of your actions. If you are fearless, you act boldly, but you consider how your actions affect others. And you consider how your actions affect you.
If we know ourselves and our limitations (yes; we’re human beings with limitations), we know when we are holding back out of fear and when we are simply doing what’s best for us and those around us. So one way yoga can make you fearless is by teaching you how to be mindful of your own truth.
Fear and Personal Power
Fear often keeps us from exercising our personal power. We hesitate to put ourselves out there in the world, because we’re afraid of losing power. This is especially true if who we are doesn’t fit mainstream attitudes.
Power is another word that can easily be misunderstood. Being powerful—at least the way I see it—does not mean being a bully and getting your way. It means being your authentic self and using your gifts as they were intended to be used. The results of authentic living are the fruits of true power. Those results are usually pretty awesome.
The fears we most need to overcome may be subtle. We may need to overcome the fear of rejection when we reach out to others. Or we may be afraid we won’t be accepted if we live as an example of an ideal we hold true. We may be afraid to express our needs or offer ourselves as we are. We may think we don’t have the ability (power) to work toward a goal we really want to accomplish.
Yoga Can Make You Fearless
If you practice yoga, you have a strong advantage in the quest for fearlessness and personal power because yoga often challenges us to move beyond our fears. If we practice well, we learn the worst thing that can happen in a challenging pose is that we fall. And most of the time, we don’t, though the pose may not be perfect.
In our asana practice, there are many poses that can help us develop a sense of fearlessness and personal power. For example, the warrior poses cultivate strength and confidence. If we want to master inversions, we must often overcome the fear of being turned upside down. As we begin to master these poses, we learn we have more power than we realized.
Beyond the confidence we get from doing challenging physical poses, yoga gives us clarity and self-awareness. We become more able to separate fact from fiction. We are also more likely to see truth when our minds are calm and clear, qualities we can cultivate through yoga as well. When we know the truth, we can operate within it, and we are less afraid.
So if fear is holding you back, it might be time to practice your handstand!