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The biggest obstacle to change and growth is fear.

Every Bikram teacher hears comments like: “I’d love to try Bikram but I’m scared of… the heat/the postures/not being able to touch my toes/looking silly in spandex/getting confused/exercising for 90 minutes/falling over/looking stupid/dehydrating”.

The same basic principle applies when people are think about changing jobs, starting or ending relationships, trying a new way of eating, going on a trip, or learning any new skill. With a fearful mindset, we can talk ourselves out of just about anything. Because there is always something we don’t know or something that can go wrong. Here are five ways to stop being scared:

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1. Write down your fears. The simple act of turning the nagging thoughts into words takes away their power.

2. Ask yourself: what am I really afraid of? Often our immediate fears are defences to protect us from deeper fears. Are you really afraid you won’t be able to touch your toes? Or is your fear of not being able to keep up in class based on perfectionism or a desire to please? Once you’re honest with yourself about your fears, you can start tackling them.

3. Imagine the worst. It sounds paradoxical, but try it. Picture yourself face-planting in front of the whole class during a balancing pose. Ouch! Now ask yourself: what’s the outcome? Will you die? Will everyone burst out laughing? Will you lose your job/home/respect of your loved ones? Of course not! You fall over, you get up. No big deal. Once you’ve pictured the worst you can put your fear in perspective.

4. Picture the accomplishment. Once you’ve dealt with the worst-case scenario, focus on how you’ll feel once you’ve tackled the fear. See yourself striding out of class after 90 minutes with all the other yogis. Imagine how invigorated you feel; imagine your glowing skin and flexible muscles; imagine telling your friends or partner about your achievement. Remind yourself that being scared only lasts for a moment while the satisfaction of overcoming it is yours to keep.

5. Keep moving. Tackling fears is hard but rewarding work. Don’t rest too much on your laurels though. Once you’re comfortable coming to class, challenge yourself to go deeper in the postures; maybe add meditation; make changes in your diet. Fear and complacency will creep in if you let them. Keep them at bay by giving yourself new challenges and building on your accomplishments.

What’s the biggest fear you’ve overcome? Share in the comments!

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