Achieving Healthy Life-Changes: How Yoga Helps us Push Past the Ego’s Fear Response

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Why do we resist change in the areas of our life where we need it most? How many times have you heard someone say they “really want” to do this or that, but they never do? They may say it over and over for years without ever bringing it into fruition. Maybe they want to quit cigarettes, or learn a new skill, or reconnect with an old friend; but they only ever discuss it. This creates a divide within ourselves, and we suffer from this fracture in our wholeness. Many times the mental body (mind) knows we want to do something, and our emotions ( spirit) feel that it’s time to do it, but our actions (body) don’t follow through. So where’s the disconnect? Why are so many of us holding ourselves back?

The answer for most people sits somewhere within the ego. When I refer to the ego, I mean the mechanism which allows us to identify ourselves as separate from others, and which prompts us to protect ourselves. So in terms of survival, the ego is a great thing. In these modern times however, our ego has become warped and sometimes does not serve us very well. No matter how much we want to change something, our ego will create every excuse not to do it. Why? Because change can be very uncomfortable, and our ego’s job is to protect us from that discomfort. In fact, it usually perceives that change will be quite painful. Have you ever been so scared to do something you thought you would hate, and then it turned out to be quite a nice experience? That initial response is your ego dealing out the fear to keep you contained – surrounded by the safe and the familiar.

How can yoga help us to recognize these ego traps and overcome them? It helps us to develop an awareness of these egoistic processes when we are on our mat, and that awareness can be translated into all facets of life. When we first begin to practice, some poses may bring up that fear and discomfort that we like to avoid. We are literally stretching out of our comfort zones, and so we may recoil in fear from some poses. As we progress, we might find the inspiration to finally stay with that pose for a few seconds, then 5 full breaths, then maybe 10. Next thing we know, we’ve pushed through that wall of fear that went up with the first sign up discomfort. We’ve discovered that on the other side of that wall is a feeling of openness, abundant energy, and joy. Over time, our bodies shift to accept our new definition of what they we physically capable of, and we grow stronger. We may even start to welcome the idea of challenging and uncomfortable poses, because we now look forward to the benefits that lie on the other side of that discomfort. Repeating this pattern of progress breaks the ego’s habit of fear-mongering us to force us out of taking action. It also builds our confidence by showing us that we can indeed over-ride our ego’s fear response.

The more we break through barriers on our mat, the more we can break through the barriers of daily life. Maybe we see that we can push through the discomfort of changing our habits just like we pushed through the discomfort of learning to do handstand. We remember the rush of exuberance and triumph we felt when coming out of that pose, and we now know that’s what’s waiting for us on the other side of every healthy change. The discomfort is simply part of the transition, and it’s nothing to fear. In fact, if we can learn to embrace the discomfort, our ego has nothing to protect us from and no reason to raise all the red flags. All those voices of doubt and rationalization start to dwindle. We begin to grasp true internal oneness and autonomy. Our actions begin to fall in line with our thoughts and emotions, uniting the body, mind, and spirit into one. This is an incredible feeling of freedom which will bring you a much higher quality of life.

Next time you catch yourself wanting to change something without taking any active steps towards achieving that change, stop for a moment and ask yourself who is in the driver’s seat. Is it your ego? In what way is it presenting itself? Look for pangs of fear, thoughts of rationalization, and all the voices planting doubt in your mind. Then switch your focus away from those and hone in on the blissful rewards which await you on the other side of taking action. Know that discomfort is only temporary, and it can’t control you without your compliance. Yoga is a great way to learn how to do this, but any activity which challenges us and builds our self-awareness will do the trick over time. Don’t keep waiting for yourself to get out of your own way. Take that first step into positive action and don’t look back!

Kimberly Horstman

1 Comment

  1. Raymond Grey on April 28, 2017 at 8:39 am

    Great article and very well explained. I believe in professionals so this is a very useful article for everyone. Many thanks for your share.

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