By Dr. Rita Khanna
There are various forms of fear; and at every step of our life, we face them – fear of disease, fear of insult, fear of death, fear of losing money, fear of losing children, fear of losing a spouse, etc. Some people have a fear of riding on buses, trains, planes, and of enclosed rooms. This type of fear usually occurs in people over 35 years of age.
There are two basic reasons for such fears: one is an accumulation of fat in the nervous tissues and physical organs of the body, and the second is due to a physiological process that occurs in the body, as a response to a frightening or confusing situation. When fear is experienced in the brain, it is passed on to the body, via the glandular and nervous systems, which prepare the body for fight or flight. The flow of adrenal secretions is greatly increased, and the whole body is fighting the unconscious fear. As a result, the person may begin to sweat, his heart may begin to palpitate, his blood pressure may go up, and he may start trembling, without any real reason. He may feel like going to the toilet, and may sweat profusely or experience heavy breathing.
Normal and Imaginary Fear
Fear is of two kinds: normal and imaginary. Only five percent is normal and the rest is all imaginary. Normal fear is healthy. It paves the way for one’s progress and preserves life. Imaginary fear plays serious havoc. Some develop a fear that they will lose their job. Some fear, “What will I do if my business fails?” A student prepares day and night for an examination. He has passed creditably in all the class examinations, but he develops a kind of imaginary fear – examination fear – as soon as he enters the examination hall, becomes nervous and gets confused. His hands tremble. He is not able to write. He fails in the examination. There is no end to such imaginary fears. Imaginary fears cause disease, deplete our energy, sap our vitality, shake our confidence, and destroy our ability to function effectively. It breaks down the nervous system and is the biggest enemy of success, as it kills all effort.
The Main Cause of Fear
The main cause of fear is lack of knowledge, ignorance, or avidya. Man forgets his essential, divine nature through Maha, or infatuation and identification with the body. He was the all-pervading, immortal, fearless Soul or Brahman in the beginning. He had no thought of diseases of body, and fall from his social status or prestige. He had no thought of enemies, war, riots and of running to any place for safety and security. His original abode was peacefully secure and free from any sort of danger and enemies. It was all one Brahman community.
On account of egoism, he became a rebellious child. He separated himself from his Father. In his new, independent egoistic life, he became selfish, crooked, narrow, and mean-minded; He entertained low thoughts. Everyday fears multiplied, as he was very much attached to his body, the bodies of his wife, children and to his house, property etc. There was a fear of losing them. When one has knowledge and understanding, he becomes fearless.
How to Overcome Fear
There are two ways of overcoming the fear complex. In the first case, one should try to metabolize the fat accumulation. In the second case, one should do Yogic practices. Through the power of Yogic practices, even a deep-rooted fear can be overcome. Any of the following techniques can be used to overcome fear:
If you practice Shashankasana, for half an hour daily, you will be able to control the secretion of adrenaline; and the fright and fear will then gradually diminish.
• This is an easy pose to come in to. Simply sit back on your heels, and close your eyes.
• Then, lean forward from the waist, and bring your forehead to the floor.
• Allow your arms to lie along the sides of your body, with your palms facing up, or keep the palms, the elbow, and the forehead touching the ground in front of you.
• Let your stomach, shoulders, and mind relax.
• Once you take this pose, you can visualize your awareness of the natural breath. This will bring immediate relief.
• Stay in the Pose for as long as you like.
One should practice Nadi Shodhana or Anuloma-viloma Pranayama regularly. It is designed to purify the psychic channels (Nadis), through which Kundalini Energy and Prana (Life-Force) flow. There are 3 primary channels for the flow of this energy: Ida, Pingala, and Shusumna. It is essential to balance the flow of energy between the Ida and Pingala channels, which run alongside, and intertwine, the spine.
• To practice this breathing exercise, sit up in a comfortable position; preferably in a variation of Sukhasana (cross legged).
• Elongate your spine upwards, lengthen your neck, and subtly bring your chin back. This will align the spine with the back of your head.
• Fold your index finger and middle finger into the palm of your right hand, so just the thumb, ring finger, and little finger are extended. Keep your left hand on the left knee in Gyan mudra posture.
• Close your eyes.
• Bring your attention to your breathing, and take 5 deep, slow breaths – through the nose. This will oxygenate your blood and relax you. For the rest of the exercise, the attention should remain on your breath.
• Now, with your right thumb, gently close the right nostril, and breathe in slowly and completely through the left nostril – only counting mentally from 1 to 4.
• Now, gently close the left nostril, with your right ring finger and little finger, and releasing the right nostril, breathe out through it only, counting mentally from 1 to 4.
• Now, breathe in through the RIGHT nostril only, keeping the left closed, counting mentally from 1 to 4.
• Finally, re-close the right nostril and breathe out through the left only, counting mentally from 1 to 4. This completes one cycle of Anuloma Viloma Pranayama.
• Start with 7 rounds a day and start to add 1 additional round as you make progress. Also, start to add to the count, based on your level of comfort, by 1 for both the inhalation portion and exhalation portion, until you reach a count of 12 for each phase.
Antar-Mouna (Inner Silence)
Antar mouna is an important technique for anyone with a disturbed mind, unbalanced emotions, and confused Samskaras (mental impressions). It involves observing the thoughts, the emotions, creating them, removing them, developing attention, and developing awareness.
The practice of Antar-Mouna can be done in any Yogic posture, such as: Padmasana, Siddhasana, Vajrasana, Sukhasana or, if these are not possible, in Shavasana – the lying-down posture. It can also be practiced while relaxing in an easy chair.
1. Close the eyes, and keep them closed throughout. Be aware of all the external sounds and sensations of the surrounding nature. Concentrate totally, until the mind is ready for inner silence.
2. Now, become aware of your thinking process. Become aware of spontaneous thoughts that come and go of their own accord. You must remain a silent witness of every thought that is going through your mind. You should remain alert throughout, and get to know the thought. If, sometimes, you become absentminded; then you revive your consciousness, and say to yourself, “Well, I became absentminded for some time; and during those moments, I was thinking of this and that.” Try to be aware of all thoughts that are coming to you naturally. Bad thoughts and good thoughts will come, and you must bring them up. When bad thoughts come to your mind – do not stop them, do not suppress them. Immediately become aware that you are thinking of fear, of revenge, and so on. Observe them. Do not set them aside; they will come to you with greater force next time.
3. Now, bring to your mind any thought which you like. Do not let it come spontaneously, but bring it in by your will. Think it over for some time, and then – dash it off. Do not allow spontaneous thought to manifest itself. Let it go. If you practice it for some time, or for a month or so, your mind will definitely develop a habit of dashing off, or disposing off, the bad thoughts that come up from the depths of your consciousness.
4. Now, allow good or bad thoughts to come spontaneously from your subconscious mind. Do not bring thoughts at will. However, when the point of disposal comes, you should dispose off the thoughts at will. It means departure of thoughts should depend upon your own will.
5. Now, look within, and be aware of the inner space. Keep yourself absolutely alert. If you think of any thought, dispose it off immediately, without brooding over it. Try to maintain a state of thoughtlessness, by remaining aware of one thought that – ‘I shall have no thought’. This is the real state of inner silence, which is full of peace and love. This is the complete practice of inner silence. Now, you can open your eyes and relax your body.
Autosuggestion is most powerful when we are in a state of relaxation. The best time to make autosuggestions is after Meditation, or just after waking up in the morning, and just before going to sleep at night. Suggestions, made in the visualization stage of Yoga- Nidra, are also very effective; as at this time, the mind is particularly receptive. Eventually, a new and different attitude to fear penetrates the subconscious, and the fear disappears. We should repeat the autosuggestion with intensity, and feeling, for a few minutes, and believe whole-heartedly that the suggestion will bring about the desired change.
Sit for a while and introspect. Find out the root of the trouble. Learn to discriminate. The mind will lurk like a thief. As we examine our fears, we can learn that they are all somehow false, and based on misunderstanding. There is no truth or reality in our fears. Many fears remain buried within us, and we never examine them, so we remain at their mercy. To overcome fear, we should learn to examine each fear, one-by-one, to encounter them, and then be free from their control. If you are not able to do this yourself, get the help of a psychotherapist or a Yogi. The thing that is deeply buried in your subconscious mind should be released or dispelled.
According to Swami Sivananda, we must first face those from whom we are afraid. If you tremble to approach your superiors, or any other person, that must be taken up as your first duty, every day, until you gain sufficient moral strength. If we are afraid of something, we should look it in the face, and the fear will vanish.
Willpower and Positive Attitude
Put the seeds of courage in your heart. Allow courage to grow. Fear will die by itself. Positive always overcomes negative. Negative thoughts are the root cause of our fears. By cultivating courage, fortitude, and firmness, in meeting danger, we can overcome fear. This is an immutable psychological law. This is the Pratipaksha Bhavana method of Raja Yogis. Try this method again and again. You are bound to succeed.
Being One with Truth
To be free from all fears means to be one with the truth. There is a simple saying in the Ramayana (one of the great epics of India) – that the smallest of creatures and animals understands what is right and what is wrong. If our heart is pure, even the most ferocious of animals will not harm us, because there will be no sympathetic arousal or ‘fight and flight’ mechanism operating in these situations, which normally happens under such circumstances.
Through regular practice of Antar-Mouna and Meditation, fears slowly show themselves, and can be uprooted from the subconscious and unconscious levels of the mind.
Taking refuge in the Lord and Living in the Company of Sages
Swami Sivananda says, “Surrender to the will of God. He bestows perfect security on His devotees and removes all sorts of fears. He transforms the sense of insecurity into one of confidence and faith.”
The essence of the Bhagavad Gita is that, whatever has happened in the past was for our good, what is happening in the present is for our good, and what will happen in the future will also be for our good. So, have no fear because God is there.
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Courtesy: Dr. Rita Khanna’s Yogashaastra Studio.
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Dr. Rita Khanna
Dr. Rita Khanna is a well-known name in the field of Yoga and Naturopathy. She was initiated into this discipline over 25 years ago by world famous Swami Adyatmananda of Sivananda Ashram in Rishikesh (India).
She believes firmly that Yoga is a scientific process, which helps us to lead a healthy and disease-free life. She is also actively involved in practicing alternative medicines like Naturopathy. Over the years, she has been successfully practicing these therapies and providing succour to several chronic and terminally ill patients through Yoga, Diet and Naturopathy. She is also imparting Yoga Teachers Training.
At present, Dr. Rita Khanna is running a Yoga Studio in Secunderabad (Hyderabad, India).