Is fear helpful or harmful?

“What would you do if you weren’t afraid?”

As many of you know, I am an avid reader and somewhere in my readings I encountered that phrase and have often pondered its application in my own life when I am having to choose between a number of options. (It was an especially relevant concept when I was contemplating leaving the corporate world and opening a yoga studio!)

Many of our actions are motivated by fear, and that’s not always a bad thing. For example, fear of injury keeps us from running into traffic and fear of pain keeps us from placing a hand on a hot burner. But does fear also put the brakes on the exploration of new activities that could be beneficial to us? Like going to your first yoga class? Or an asana (yoga pose) not yet tried because it looks too hard? Or a pose not attempted without the benefit of a familiar prop? Yes, all too often, when it comes to trying new things, fear motivates us to avoid, stop, or simply remain in the proverbial shallow end of the pool.

One dictionary defines fear as “a distressing emotion aroused by impending danger, whether the threat is real or imagined.” How true. But “impending” danger is not the reality of the present moment, and an “imagined” threat may never materialize.
Now I do not advocate throwing all caution to the wind and running willy-nilly into potentially harmful situations, but I do think there is value in sorting through our personal fears and determining whether those fears act as safe-guards that protect us from harm or roadblocks to a more vibrant future. So whether you are considering taking a yoga class for the very first time, or pondering an advanced arm balance that you have been avoiding, ask fear to step aside so you can give it a try. You might be in for a very pleasant surprise.