For several years I went to the Inner Harmony Retreat Center in Utah for yoga workshops. Midweek we would only have a morning class and then go to Zion National Park for the afternoon. There was a choice of a few different hikes and Angel’s Landing was the most challenging. It is only two and a half miles, but the first two miles are steep switchbacks and the last half mile is a rock scramble.
I decided to try Angel’s Landing and started off with a fairly slow group. Midway through the switchbacks they decided to turn back and I continued on by myself, hoping to catch up with the faster group. When I reached the end of the paved trail and started into the rocky area, it was not as bad as I had expected. The trail was about three feet wide and there was a chain to hold onto. I stopped and looked over the ledge to my right and saw the tops of trees far below. Normally I am not afraid of heights, but this time I panicked.
I pressed my back against the rock wall and hung onto the chain for dear life. After the initial moment of panic faded, I tried to convince myself to move on, but the thought of moving brought the intense fear back again.
As I tried to figure out what to do next, a flash of memory brought back another trip I had taken to the Grand Canyon a few years before. On that trip, we had taken a hike that included a mile long boulder field. In the middle of the boulders I stopped to take a picture and the boulder I was standing on rolled out from underneath me. As I fell my arm hit my sunglasses and I broke my nose. The sky, the rocks and the trees in Zion reminded me of those where I had fallen in the Grand Canyon.
Once I identified the source of my fear, I could convince myself to move on. I thought that if I turned back, it would be harder to go on future hikes in the West or where there were rocks. I made it to the top of Angel’s Landing and the view of Zion Canyon was spectacular and well worth the mental and physical effort to reach it.
The next week I planned to take a less challenging hike, but my roommate convinced me to climb Angel’s Landing with her. This time there was no fear.
We all have things that make us apprehensive and uncomfortable. Sometimes these feelings are rational and protective and keep us from harm. We do not play in traffic when we are little, though the reason may be fear of what will happen if our parents find out rather than our fear of the cars and trucks.
If you do yoga long enough, you usually find a pose that brings up a feeling of fear. For some it is inverted poses like handstand or headstand. For others it can be a backbend because you cannot see where you are going. The fear may be the fear of trying something new or it could be that you are not ready for the pose yet. It also could be related to something in your past that has nothing to do with the pose itself. The trick is to determine what type of fear it is.
You should always honor a fear that is protecting you. It has kept you alive thus far. However, if this fear has another cause, it may be worth trying to move beyond it so you can relish the reward of reaching a new height.