We are constantly taking risks and don’t even notice it. Most of the time, these risks are small, and we just decide to move on without spending too much time on them. When we have to confront a major decision, then we do notice the pros and cons and start paying attention to the risks associated to it.
When we practice yoga on our mat, we are constantly confronting doubts about which pose or asana we will be able to do, if we will fall, and if we should just not even try it. If we didn’t try, we would never evolve in our practice, and we would just stay where we started. The first time a yogi is confronted with his/her fears towards, say, a headstand, the first thought that comes to mind is something like: ‘there is no way I can stand on my head, I will fall and in the process not only I can injure myself and others but it would be terribly embarrassing, so we just stay in child’s pose, or maybe go of the prep pose and stay there.’ That is our survival instinct kicking in, telling us to be careful and not do something that looks so dangerous. It is a risk we need to decide to take or not. And this decision will depend basically of two factors: 1) the probability of the event (falling) happening, and 2) the effects of it happening. We already know what the effects are, and we are pretty sure that the probability is close to 100% of falling the first time we try a headstand. So, our decision is no, I don’t want to fall, so I won’t do it. There is however something we can do: Mitigate the risk. Mitigation actions will be things we can do to either reduce the probability of the event happening, or even if it happens, to diminish the consequences.
To reduce the probability of falling on our first headstand we could ask our Yoga Teacher to spot us and assist us. He or she will be there not only to give us guidance on how to perform our first headstand safely, but also to catch us in the event that we may fall. Another option, once we have tried several times but we still don’t have full confidence is to be close to a wall, so if we tend to fall, we can always use the wall as support. A third option could be to basically stay away from others in the room to avoid falling on top of them, and try on our own, and if we fall, well, we just let go and enjoy the feeling of falling. This last option takes more courage, and if you practice on a beach or a park where you can fall on sand or grass, then you can learn to fall safely and eventually you will find your balance and not fall anymore. But, if we had not taken the risk we would have never learned to do our headstand, and by mitigating the risk, we were able to deal with it in a way that it allowed us to grow in our practice.
This same risk assessment process can be applied to any situation in our life where we do not know which way to go, especially when confronting the unknown. Not knowing what will happen can cause anxiety and over analyzing the situation can cause major paralysis and indecision, which would take us nowhere. Just ask yourself: what am I afraid of? What could happen if I make the particular decision? In some cases we will see that we are worried about something that most likely will never happen (low probability of occurring) and even if it did, maybe it would not be that big of an issue (low impact). Our attention should be on those risks which impact is medium or high, and think what could we do to mitigate the risk. If you are going on an expensive vacation and the probability, even though low, of not being able to go worries you, then a good mitigation action could be to buy travel insurance.
In summary, don’t allow the fear of the unknown to prevent you from living to your life at its fullest potential. Although, there will always be risks we will never take, there may be others that by applying this analytical process may make them more bearable, and then you may grow in your life more than you think!!!