Fear is a powerful force and I find myself using fear to trick my mind into all sorts of irrational stories and beliefs. I think our minds like to use fear to distract us from really looking within. My most recent bout of left hip and back pain was a great opportunity to practice working through fear. I had grown a bit dependent and comfortable with my pain telling me where my boundaries were. Funnily enough, though my pain and weakness have pretty much been resolved, I periodically find myself being scared again. During the time in which my hip and back were so troublesome, I used my pain to help me set boundaries for myself. It let me know when I was pushing too hard. But now that the pain is gone (for which I am very grateful) I have lost that sense of boundaries. I find myself fearful of not having pain anymore, not having that feedback to let me know what boundaries are appropriate to have. It seems a bit irrational to say “I am afraid of not having pain anymore”, don’t you think?
One of most important things I did during my recovery was not being afraid and just feeling and staying present. I believe a yoga practice has the potential to help us set boundaries by keeping us focused on the breath. This can help us work through difficult postures and even fear. At the yoga therapy conference I recently attended, a medical doctor gave a lecture and after class I went up to him and asked him about precautions with headstand. I mentioned that I thought students who had surgery in their neck or high blood pressure shouldn’t do headstand and he asked "What is their breath doing?" He said, “The body will tell you with your breath if it is ok to continue.” This really surprised me; it sounds so simple but it is also complex.
I encourage you to try watching your breath in your yoga practice, meditation practice, when you are stressed, and when you get upset or scared.
Watch what happens and notice how the breath and the awareness of the breath changes in each situation.
When your yoga teacher mentions breathing or to inhale/exhale in class, are you aware each time they say it or is it just one more cue that often gets ignored?
Try to incorporate an awareness of your breath throughout the day and see what happens.