In this blog post, Nadine reflects on the human emotion of fear and how to work with, and through, one’s fears throughout the different phases of life. This is post of two parts, find Nadine’s Yin yoga practice, for all levels and designed by Nadine to help us face these fears and go forward, here.
My big mission over the last few months has been facing up to my fears. It is requiring a lot of faith on my part and a lot of help, encouragement and teamwork from my husband and chief cheerleader, Nick. This blog is a reflection on two big fears that I have had for a long time, what I am doing to deal with them and how yoga practice is helping me on my journey. At the end of the blog, you will find a link to a Yin practice that will help balance kidney chi, which is connected to the emotion of fear.
I have taken on a couple of challenges that, until recently, have scared me so much and I know will flare up and continue to overwhelm and intimidate me again. I have been witnessing pure fear in my children for some years – the usual kid stuff: scared of the dark, scared of being alone, spiders, daddy long legs, ghosts, cone snails (!).
With my son, there has been the recent fear of dogs. Nothing bad has happened but Noah got a fright one day and he has built up this crippling fear. These are things that can feel exasperating as a parent, but in their worlds they can be so very real. And huge.
I remember these childhood fears of my own so clearly: not wanting to sit on the loo in case a snake came up or running down my parents’ huge tenement hallway in the dark to get a drink at night, my heart thumping, afraid of unearthly things lurking in the dark corners. As an adult, donʼt even get me started on Stranger Things – I got so spooked out after watching that I had to stop.
A typical human emotion
Fear is a perfectly normal human emotion, we just run into trouble when these fears get exaggerated and are made huge within our own minds. Also, for people with anger issues, if you look under the anger you will usually find fear.
Anger is born out of fear and, for parents, I have learned that in the moments when your little one is so angry and lashing out the root of the anger it is usually fear. At times when I feel angry with my kids, I reflect on that anger and I see that I am just scared.
Are they going to grow up to be violent psychopaths just because they hit each other? No – of course not – that is me projecting my fears of the future onto them. If I stayed present then I would feel different.
My own stuff
Over the years I have tackled some big fears and faced up to the hard honest facts of my addictions. I tried so hard to be brave and strong but, to be honest, I am a total scaredy cat. This I have found to be very apparent in my yoga practice.
My main discovery was headstand: I just could not find it in me to embrace the asana, trust in myself and my breath and to allow myself to turn upside down. All the times I would be told that I had the strength, and it was all there but the thing holding me back was my mind. I have the same issue with drop backs – so many years of not doing them and I still donʼt. I have used all manner of tactics – mainly avoidance – and also a stubborn, childish “well, no one can make me” inner dialogue.
I need permanent hand-holding with this work – one day I may just get it and, like headstand, I will wonder what all the fuss was about. Headstand took me six years to build up to. I just plodded onwards, mindfully working with compassion for myself and it grew and developed.
A major breakthrough was one day just going for it – taking a leap of faith. I had a new teacher and, to be honest, I wanted to impress him so I just got up there, shakily, but I got up there – I took the plunge.
Noah, at only seven years old, has worked out his own action plan for his fear of dogs which he explained to Nick and me. He is calling it his “step by step learning” (which I can relate to Vinyasa Krama in life – aka step-by-step progression). His plan is to visit our neighbour with their nice dog and just be in the same room as the dog, then slowly, step by step he will be able to work on feeling more confident, getting closer to the dog and facing up to his fear. This is awesome and inspiring.
We meet the term Vinyasa Krama on the yoga mat where we use a series of skillfully linked breath and movement practices to move through the sequence of a yoga practice as taught by Sri Krishnamacharya.
You may be familiar with the Ashtanga sequence and Vinyasa Krama is applicable to all yoga practices. This application can be used in life too – a step by step process: breathing, moving through the peaks and troughs of life, facing the challenges in a methodical way, enjoying the beautiful moments – we have to walk before we can run, right?
I find this a valuable mat-to-life lesson that can support us through the most tricky of times.
Do I have a plan?
Whatʼs MY plan then? I have struggled with two major issues over the years and only recently have I managed to put together my Vinyasa Krama to tackle them. From my late teens, I have struggled with addiction and I managed to let go of the attachment to substances over 12 years ago.
I have still always enjoyed a drink in moderation but it got to the point that Nick and I felt that we didnʼt have the healthiest relationship with alcohol and it was clouding our perception. It was time to stop for good and I sat there in my front room in bits, crying with fear for how I was going to do it – what if I failed? Am I going to miss it? I was also angry and ashamed with myself, angry that I found it such a big deal and ashamed that I am a yogi who just couldnʼt do it.
But do you know what? Iʼm also a human being with all my imperfections, rubbish and mess. I have had to root down inside and just face the tiger within. That was almost four months ago and Iʼm doing it. Iʼm not missing it. I feel happier. I laugh in the face of fear! I have a co-worker though, my chief cheerleader – I couldnʼt do it without him – he was the person I stopped all the other stuff for 12 years ago. He saved my life then and he continues to do so on a daily basis.
Fear number two? Nick and I have always had strong feelings about how our kids are educated. We donʼt want them to go through mainstream education and if we can find another route for them we will.
We have always been interested in homeschooling but I have always been too scared! What if I am not good enough? Not patient enough? Not clever/interesting enough? Well, it came around at the end of last year that homeschooling would be the best path for our family… I faced up to that fear – firstly, at what would be best for our kids, what they needed and wanted and also bolstered and inspired by some totally awesome friends who are just such an inspiration and full of wisdom, positivity and encouragement. And of course – that lovely cheerleader in the corner – I am going to buy that man some pom-poms!
Our path of home education begins soon and I fluctuate between excitement, relief and sheer terror. Again, I feel a mindful way of working is going to be beneficial… a vinyasa krama – one day at a time – step by step. Like the drink. I think it will also take a lot of just winging it and going with the flow – which is basically parenting, isnʼt it?
Can drop-backs change my life?
If I can face up to these biggies, I can face up to drop backs. I think about how the fears I have faced up to and am dealing with totally transformed my life and the lives of my nearest and dearest – but can a drop back transform my life? No it canʼt. But what these challenging practices can do, whether it is a drop back, a tic-tac, a deep Yin practice, a challenging pranayama practice, a seated meditation or even just showing up to a yoga class. These practices give us the tools, the opportunity to go deeper, to face the tiger and to build resilience.
Iʼm going to let these practices roll. I am going to keep plodding on, and have been advised by Sarah Hatcher to do David Garriguesʼ back bending course online to help me face my back bending fears. When I do manage to practice in the Mysore Room I am always met with support, sound advice and encouragement. Iʼll get back to you in six months…and then a year. I am sure there will be new fears – there will be tears and thatʼs fine.