Are You Drowning in Fear?

Early in my yoga practice, I often rushed to the studio straight from work. I quickly shed my conservative suit, rolled out my purple mat and exhaled, or was it melted? Getting to class was a push after failing to extract myself from the office on time, but part of my scurry was a desire to whisk past the oddities on the studio shop’s shelves.

Mala beads, sage bundles, tongue scrapers and natural deodorant. It was all too unconventional, too mysterious for me.  At that point, I shopped for my personal care products in well-stocked, numbered aisles under fluorescent tube lighting, not incense-laden nooks. So, I put on my blinders and focused on the dreamy yoga class high that kept me coming back.

Each time I shuffled past the shop goods, though, my curiosity grew. Little by little, I eyed the strange merchandise, sniffed the sage and even came to recognize the om symbol. But, I maintained an insurmountable aversion to one item—the neti pot. My teacher extolled the allergy and sinus benefits of the ancient neti nasal wash practice. I wanted to want to try it, but continued to eyeball the little genie lamp pots with disgust and fear.

It was more than the gross-out factor. Yes, blobs resembling Martian brains do make their way out of one’s head and into the sink, but anyone who’s dealt with a bad cold, large dog or small child has experienced mass snot and lived to tell.

I could fit the other shop goods in the margins of my comfort spheres. Oh, sage. It’s sort of like potpourri. Tongue scrapers. Don’t some toothbrushes at Target come with mini scrapers? I could rectify most of what I saw with my sense of normalcy, but not the neti pot. This was before Whole Foods came to town, before Dr. Oz touted the benefits of nasal washing on mainstream TV, and before you could readily find nasal wash kits at any drug store. This was weird. Period. My pseudo-perfect vision of myself at the time was cast in pearls and tweed. In my mind, yoga was fringe at best, and even considering a neti pot made me weird.

Yet, the allure of the promised benefits called. I decided I would try it, which equated to spending a couple months researching neti pots. Ceramic or metal? How does it work exactly? Has anyone drowned themselves with a neti pot? I got the how-to download from my yoga teacher and YouTube, but still feared I’d end up the freak drowning victim. I recognized that this fear was completely irrational, and dug deeper. With a big ah-ha, I realized that deliberately flooding my nasal passages actually triggered a fear of giving up perceived control of my body, my self image, my life. That was the moment the barrier broke down. I went for it.

The first try, I admittedly resembled a snorting trunkless elephant. On the plus side, I didn’t drown. Round two, I fell in love with the whole process, the gentle, soothing stream of water and the clear, open flow of breath afterward.

These days, I breathe more easily on many levels. I’ve learned to pinpoint and welcome that self-imposed wall of fear, acknowledge and thank it, and then move forward to the wild, and sometimes blissfully tame, unknown beyond. In this place, following my natural curiosity without judgment, is where I’m finally coming to know and love my true self. Thank you, yoga; thank you, life, for all the wonderful weirdness you’ve brought my way.

Journal Exploration

  1. What are you interested in exploring outside your comfort zone? What holds you back?
  2.  What are you most passionate about?

  3. Think of a time you tried something new, maybe you were afraid to do it. Was the experience what you expected? Describe your thoughts and feelings.