Overcoming Fear Through Yoga

Sarah_yoga

 

How can I be afraid of losing control when I was never in control in the first place?

  What a life changing realization that was…that you can’t lose something you’ve never had. Fear has been a consistent visitor of mine over the last few years. The sort of fear that constantly lingers in the back of your mind, stubbornly sitting there no matter how hard you try to tell yourself that it’s unnecessary and unreasonable. That’s the thing with fear and anxiety—you can’t just talk yourself out of it. There has to be shift within you to even begin to release it. My fears come in all different forms, but the biggest has been the fear of losing control. When I was at that terribly awkward age of 14 I found out that I had epilepsy. A seizure is an experience of completely losing control of your body, your mind, your everything. At that age, dealing with other people’s reactions was the hardest part. I was made to feel like there was something very wrong with me and a lot of fear arose in those around me. I haven’t had a seizure since that first big one, but the migraines first started about four years ago and they quickly took over my life. I could no longer drink alcohol, (a big deal at 22) I struggled working as a journalist and I felt constantly unwell. Every day for two months straight I either had a migraine, or I suffered a migraine hangover. My fear of seizures suddenly came out of nowhere, after living dormant in the back of my mind for years. I felt unsafe in my own head. I went through a time where my anxiety was so high I now believe that I was actually having panic attacks, rather than migraines. Vertigo and a distorted sense of reality ruled my life. I struggled being in social situations, interviewing people for my job became increasingly hard. It was during this time that I first thought maybe my weekly yoga class might have some answers. I started taking time at home to do my own breathing practices when the distressing feelings got too much for me. I travelled for a few years, and managed to control the migraines on my anti-epilepsy medication. It was when I was living in a yoga retreat on the west coast of Ireland that my yoga journey really began. During the year long Ashtanga yoga teacher training I completed, my world was tipped upside down and some of these fearful emotions and experiences intensified at times, but I began to learn how to trust myself.

When I say I trust myself, I mean I trust that the feelings in my head aren’t going to cause me to have a seizure, that I’m not going to pass out while I’m driving on the motorway.

  And that’s when I came to this realization of not being in control. If you can just learn to let go of this idea of control, then suddenly life seems lighter, you can relax in knowing that what is happening right now is perfect. If I am going to have a seizure then there is nothing I can do about it, fighting it will only make things worse. Practicing Ashtanga yoga five times a week really opens us up…and what comes out can be absolutely terrifying. There have been days where I have wanted to tell first time yoga students to just turn around and run for the hills, because sometimes its just damn right scary. But I keep going back to my mat; I keep finding myself there almost every day. Some days I argue with it, some days I laugh, some days I cry, and some days I just feel nothing. It’s always going to be a bit of a work in progress for me, but the improvements I have made are incredible and it’s evident in my yoga asana practice as well as my day to day life. I have become so aware of these dark, scary feelings that arise within me, and the way I deal with them is forever changing. But right now I’m just allowing them to be, as I learn to let them go. First published here at elephantjournal.com