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A 7-Step Formula For Facing Your Fears (PS: You don’t have to be fearless!)

Jason Crandell Scorpion assist
The idea of being fearless—on or off the yoga mat—doesn’t resonate with me. Neither does the notion of conquering my fears. I understand and appreciate these concepts, but they don’t feel realistic.

I’d rather change the narrative to this: Instead of trying to live a “fearless” life, I’m trying to live a life where I understand, manage, and respond to my fears with greater compassion and skill. I’m under no illusion that my fears will permanently go away. I am, however, optimistic that I can continue to get better at working through my fears so that they don’t unconsciously control my behavior.

I have countless fears, but I don’t live in fear. There’s a difference. Here’s a partial list: I’m afraid of bees (yep), I’m afraid of turbulence (sweaty palms from takeoff to touchdown), I’m afraid of bodies of water where I can’t see the ground, I’m afraid of losing my loved ones, I’m afraid of failure (hello, therapist), and I’m afraid that my style of teaching will become irrelevant or that teaching yoga will no longer be a viable livelihood for me.

I also get little twinges of fear when I practice deeper backbends like Kapotasana or when I’m getting dropped back into Urdhva Dhanurasana. File both of these under postures I’d rather be teaching than practicing. Fortunately for my wife, I’m not afraid of spiders.

The reason that I’m sharing all of this is because I witness so many students feeling guilty or ashamed when they practice postures that trigger experience fear in the classroom. When we’re afraid to acknowledge and feel our fears, it only makes things worse. Instead of trying to “fake it ‘til you make it” or stuff your fears, I invite you to use yoga room as the perfect place to witness your fears and become more skillful at working through them.

Here’s a step-by-step process for you to try:

1. Accept It
Remember that fear is a normal, natural part of the human psyche. Don’t beat yourself up or feel guilty because you experience fear—everyone has fears except for psychopaths and you don’t want to be a psychopath, do you? Being ashamed of your fears will only inflate them and make you less able to manage them.

It can also lead to feelings of separation, as though you’re the only person in the room with fear and that something is wrong with you. You are never the only person with fear in the room and there is nothing wrong with you. Got it?

2. Demystify It
When you become fearful in your practice, try to drill down and identify what you’re actually afraid of. Let’s say you’re afraid of Handstand. Take another step and try to figure out the specific fear you’re experiencing, such as the fear of falling on your head. Being more objective with your fear will help you start to demystify it. This will begin to lessen the fear. Even more, it will identify the challenge that you’re trying to solve.

3. Ask For Help
Asking your teacher for help does two things: First, you take some of the pressure off of yourself. You reduce the burden that you’ve internalized. (And, no, you’re not adding to your teacher’s burden. This is what we’re here for.) Second, you actually get help when you ask for it! Your teacher might not know that you need a little extra support. When you ask for help, they can usually give you the physical and mental support that you need.

4. Breathe!
Lengthen your exhalations. Lengthening your exhalations will settle you, focus you, and soothe you. Once you’ve lengthened your exhalations, take an “Everything’s gonna be alright” breath. You know what I mean.

5. Use Support
The first wave of support should come from your teacher. Remember, you’re going to ask them for help, right? But, you may also benefit from using more props, like the wall, bolsters, and blankets. If you’re afraid of Handstand, stay at the wall without feeling guilty that you’re not in the middle of the room! If you’re afraid of falling on your face in Bakasana, put a bunch of blankets on the floor in front of you.

6.Don’t Stay Long
Don’t stay long in postures that scare you. Staying too long in stressful situations usually increases aversion. Try staying for a breath or two — it will give you confidence to know that you can do the pose. But if you know that you’re only going to do the pose for a couple of breaths, you’ll be much more willing to repeat it.

7. Rinse and Repeat
Repeat the postures that scare you—for brief periods and with proper support—more frequently. The longer you avoid postures that scare you, the bigger the aversion becomes. Instead, repeat the postures with adequate support as frequently as you can. This repeat exposure—and success in the postures—will help you reframe your relationship to your fear.

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One Simple Question to Change Your Day

Supta Baddha Konasana

Now that I’m through active breast cancer treatment and my daughter is three, I have more time for everything – yoga, work, cooking, creativity, friends, fun. It’s awesome. And, it can also be a little crazymaking. So, lately, when I’ve got childcare and I’m running around town like a fiendish little elf trying to check through my to-do list, I’ve found that I have to stop and ask myself the simple question, ‘What nourishes you?’

I typically have to ask the question when it dawns on me that, realistically, I’ll be lucky if I get halfway through my to-do list. And all of that adrenaline and excitement is going to turn into stress and irritability and a feeling of not enough-ness — not enough time, not enough accomplished, not enough perfection. When I find myself in this spiral, it usually means my nervous system is completely jacked up.

Have you ever noticed your jacked up mind and nervous system weaving its way into your yoga practice? That happens to me from time to time, too. Ironically, it typically happens when I’ve been practicing often and my body is feeling more capable and agile. I might be toodling along, warming up my outer hips for an arm balance when suddenly my mind goes into hyperdrive about the arm balance. ‘Will I feel strong today? Will I get my hip off my elbow today? If not today, then when?’

For me, the bottom line is: There is an extremely fine line between doing and overdoing. When the scales tip and our inner drive consumes us to do more or be more, we become distracted. We miss the moments that are right in front of us. We forget to kiss our loved ones hello. We don’t smile and connect with our next door neighbor. We wolf down our food without tasting it. We just generally stop enjoying life because we’re stuck in our world of planning and doing.

When I’m in this zone, the best way to consistently bring myself back to the present is to ask myself, ‘What nourishes you?‘ In other words, what can I do that would slow me down and feel good? What would take me out of my head and into my senses or my body? I’ve learned to do this as a way to pause. And remember. That life is not a race, it’s something to be savored.

The answer doesn’t have to be within my yoga practice. Sometimes it’s the perfect cup of coffee in my favorite café. Sometimes it’s a quiet moment in my backyard listening to the birds. Sometimes it’s a big glass of wine with a girlfriend. Sometimes it’s dancing in my living room. Sometimes it’s putting my computer down at night and cuddling with my husband.

When I ask myself this question, it’s a way of saying to myself:

• Be kind to yourself
• Silence the inner critic
• Place yourself in high regard
• Enjoy your life; allow time for happiness and pleasure

It’s a way to tip the scales back from feeling unnecessarily stressed and incomplete to feeling calm and capable and whole. And if I can do all the things on that list for myself – be kind, place myself in high regard, encourage happiness – then I am much more likely to spread that out into the world and do the same for others.

Whatever nourishing thing I choose, asking the question always, always changes the way I experience my day.

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5 Yoga Lessons I’ve Learned From My Toddler

Sofia Laughing

Before I had my daughter Sofia-Rose, I dreaded the toddler phase. Because, let’s face it, before you have kids, toddlers seem like whirling balls of crazy. They are the antithesis of what most of us try to create in adult life–things like order or predictability or, really, anything that resembles logic and practicality.

Fortunately, living with your very own toddler is completely different from witnessing one meltdown in the middle of the mall. Well, most of the time anyway. There are incredibly challenging moments and yet, you love them more deeply than you could have ever imagined – and that’s what makes them such great teachers.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the ways that my girl reminds me of the lessons I try to learn on my mat as well as the ways she puts my yoga mental, emotional, and spiritual practice to the test. I may not get on my mat as consistently, but I am certainly learning yoga’s lessons #everydamnday. Here’s just a sampling of my thoughts about life with Sofia-Rose and the lessons she’s teaching me these days.

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Episode 10: Stephanie Snyder – Love Your Whole Story

Hi everyone!

After interviewing many traveling yoga teachers, I wanted to talk to a teacher who has focused on building a successful career serving her local community. Enter vinyasa yoga teacher Stephanie Snyder.

Although Steph (@stephsnyderyoga) has spent her fair share of time on the road teaching, she also has one of the most devoted community of students in San Francisco that I’ve witnessed. And now, after years of surviving studio changes and closures, she’s opening a studio of her own in San Francisco, called LoveStory. I have no doubt that her local students will rally around to make it a huge success. (Full disclosure: Jason will be teaching there, too. For details and 2017 teacher training dates, go to the LoveStory web site.)

We talked about why it’s important for teachers to “think local,” as well as:

* How she incorporates philosophy into vinyasa flow classes (she is exceptionally gifted at this)
* Where she derives inspiration for the philosophical themes of her classes (scroll down for her favorite texts and translations)
* What her daily practice involves
* How motherhood has changed her yoga practice
* How yoga fortifies her through the challenges of motherhood
* The story behind LoveStory

“Yoga has been the greatest love story of my life and I believe it can be that for everyone.”
Stephanie Snyder

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LoveStory Yoga
Stephanie Snyder Yoga
The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali: a New Edition, Translation, and Commentary by Edwin Bryant
The Path of the Yoga Sutras, A Practical Guide to the Core of Yoga (Nicolai Bachman)
The Great Work of Your Life by Stephen Cope
The Living Gita: The Complete Bhagavad Gita by Sri Swami Satchidananda

Colectivo Etereo — Textrano
Ketsa — Dryness
Podington Bear — Funk

I am going for the harder sell these days — If you like the podcast, please leave a review or rating on iTunes! I’m learning that it really does help others find it and it helps me to know which episodes resonate with you! You can also follow me on Twitter @yogalandpodcast.

Stephanie Snyder

Stephanie Snyder Visvamitrasana

Stephanie Snyder Twisted Chapasana

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