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Habits are More Powerful Than Fears

Habits are more powerful than fears-Seth Godin

To overcome an irrational fear, replace it with a habit-Seth Godin


Daily yoga practice is so powerful. We are replacing irrational fears, damaging habits and debilitating thoughts with ones that will serve us better. The power is in the habit.

The yogis talk about being able to just spontaneously rest in our being and  staying connected to our intrinsic self without work. This is only a dream for most and a reality for even fewer. There is hope. We can have a sadhana.  A daily practice that we do tirelessly and with devotion.

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit-Aristotle

To be at the pentacle of its power, the yoga practice has to become a habit. How do we know when it is a habit?

Habit: a settled or regular tendency or practice, especially one that is hard to give up-Google Dictionary
Yoga Sutras of Patanjali 1:14 Practice becomes firmly grounded when well attended to for a long time, without break and with devotion
It is a habit when it is as regular as brushing our teeth. It is a habit when we know that we are not going to let the day go by without getting on our mats for a few minutes. It becomes a habit when it is hard to give up. It becomes a habit when we have been doing it without break for a long time. It is a habit when we see it as an act of devotion and not a chore.
Our practice gives us many opportunities to overcome our fears and habitual patterns. Here are a few examples
Back bending
Many people are terrified of back bending. Specifically dropping back. When I first started doing handstand drop overs, I actually screamed out loud! I got over my fears because my teachers made me do them every day. If I tried to quickly move to closing, they made me go back. Once I started practicing at home, I wanted to skip them but I remembered what my teachers taught me and I did them anyway. There were many times when I would fall on my back but I made myself get up and do it again. I knew that it was the only way I would get over the fear. Now I do these back bends with no fear and no problem. It took at least 6 months of doing them every practice to get okay with them.
Fear of what others think
This is something that I battled with for most of my life. When I practiced in a group, I would loudly protest and make sure everyone understood why I couldn’t do a pose that I felt I should be able to do.  “I partied to hard last night”. “I have an injury”. When I didn’t have a good excuse, I would sigh and moan to illicit sympathy.  When I practiced at home, I would imagine that someone was watching me and I would try to make each pose correct  and in in sequence. When I “messed up” I would feel much shame. Of course, this bled over into my personal life.
Again, consistent practice helped me to get over this. At first I didn’t understand what I was doing. My teachers started me on the path but I still didn’t get it. I was in class one day and a teacher pretty much told me to shut up….in really pretty yoga words..but it was shut up all the same. She said that the words were not needed. Just let the pose do the work. After that, I reeled it in a little bit with the verbals but then I did things with my breath. I learned in a vinyasa class to take a “cleansing breath” which is where you breathe loudly out your mouth. Instead of using it to let go of excess heat, my thoughts and as a centering tool,  I started letting that be my single for sympathy. Again, my teachers stepped in. In Ashtanga you only breath through your nose and my Ashtanga teacher told me to stop it and every time I would do it, he would say something. I stopped doing it but I didn’t understand why until I started to see the same pattern in a few of my students. In this situation even though I didn’t understand what I was doing, the practice set me on the path with a good habit. This bled over into my daily life and I started to identify people pleasing habits and deal with them.
A consistent yoga practice is a key.  It will change your life.Make it a habit.


Disclaimer: the opinion of the author is not necessarily the opinion of other APP participants.

Shanna Small has been practicing Ashtanga Yoga and studying the Yoga Sutras since 2001. She has studied in Mysore with Sharath Jois and is the Director of AYS Charlotte, a school for traditional Ashtanga in Charlotte NC. She has written for Yoga International and the Ashtanga Dispatch. Go here for more information on AYS Charlotte. For information on workshops, please e-mail

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