find courageBy: Virginia Iversen, M.Ed

How do we teach our students about releasing negative emotions? Many Yoga practitioners strive for courage, both on and off the Yoga mat. Courage is often defined as the strength, resolution and stamina to keep going “when the chips are down.” This steadfast sense of resolute equilibrium of heart, mind and body is frequently depicted in Yogic scriptures and in stories of people who have overcome enormous personal obstacles, in order to achieve their dreams.

The biographical story of Thomas Edison is one such story. According to most calculations, Edison failed to invent a light bulb that worked at least a thousand times! Yet, he kept on trying. Eventually, of course, he invented the first practical and working light bulb, a discovery that has dramatically impacted all of our lives. There are also a number of stories that are found in Yogic scriptures that tell the tale of repeated failure, unwavering perseverance and then, ultimately, success.

The same pattern of failure, followed by success, is often played out on the Yoga mat. In your own personal Yoga practice, you my find that your are plagued with a whole host of negative emotions. Emotions such as fear, low self-esteem and a lack of belief of one’s own potential. These negative emotions are sure to undermine your efforts on the mat. However, some of these fears may be accurate, while other negative emotions may not be valid.

For example, if you are afraid to do Handstand in the middle of the Yoga studio, because you do not feel that your practice of Handstand is strong enough to hold safely without the support of the wall, your anxiety may be accurate and may be protecting you from injuring yourself. On the other hand, if you have been practicing Handstand successfully on the wall for a couple of months, and you are comfortable in the pose, your anxiety about practicing “off the wall” may not be justified and may be holding you back from progressing in your Yoga practice.

Finding a balance between ahimsa, or non-harming, and the courage to safely push yourself in your Yoga practice, while honoring your current limitations, is a core component of developing self-respect, courage and a feeling of internal safety. As you strive to progress in your Yoga practice or teaching, becoming aware of negative emotions and respecting the messages that these emotions are giving you, will help you to increase your self-awareness. This self-awareness will provide you with the opportunity to either release and push past spurious negative thoughts, or to respect the messages that these negative emotions are accurately giving you about your current physical abilities on the Yoga mat.

© Copyright – Virginia Iversen / Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division

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