“Fear and fatigue block the mind. Face both, then courage and confidence flows into you” B.K.S. Iyengar
“When compassion, or warmheartedness, arises in us, and our focus shifts away from our own narrow self-interest, it is as if we open an inner door. It reduces fear, boosts confidence, and brings us inner strength.” The 14th Dalai Lama
Backbending asanas (Purva Pratana Sthiti) involve coordinating the movements of the spine to arch the back and lift, broaden, and open the chest area. This category of asanas helps build courage, alleviate depression, and overcome fear. They greatly benefit the mind by making it more resilient, humble, and alert. Although there are always uncertainties in life, we’re now confronting it head-on (whether we like it or not). This is definitely a scary concept for most of us. Although fear can be beneficial (like fear of touching a downed power line!), it can also be blinding and inhibit personal growth. Sometimes we need to literally and figuratively open our hearts to see if our fear is helping or hurting. Now is the time to be courageous so we can support and help those who need it most.
Of course, courage and confidence don’t always come easily. We have to build it up little by little! That’s why Mr. Iyengar recommends starting with prone and supported backbends to learn how to arch the thoracic region of the spine (mid-upper back) and not overdo the arching of the lumbar (lower) region. These “simple” backbends also help us understand the movement of the breath to enhance the benefits of these asanas and avoid pains/discomfort. This makes us understand the actions needed to attempt more advanced backbends in the future: understanding builds courage and confidence.
Ahimsa (non-violence) is one of the Yamas (social/ethical disciplines) described in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. One of the best ways to prevent violence is to address and contemplate the fears that make us act – and not act – in certain ways. Then we move more peacefully into the future and the unknowns that live there.
PYS II. 34 vitarkah hiṁsādayaḥ kṛta kārita anumoditāḥ lobha krodha moha pūrvakāḥ mṛdu Madhya adhimātrāḥ duḥkha ajñāna anantaphalāḥ iti pratipakṣabhāvanam
Uncertain knowledge giving rise to violence, whether done directly or indirectly or condoned, is caused by greed, anger or delusion in mild, moderate or intense degree. It results in endless pain and ignorance. Through introspection comes the end of pain and ignorance. (B.K.S. Iyengar; Light on the Yoga Sūtras of Patañjali).