Yoga and Living Courageously

virabhadrasana 1 (warrior/hero pose). Photo by

virabhadrasana 1 (warrior/hero pose). Photo by

Courage. From the Latin cor meaning heart.

Many people have told me that I’m brave, probably because they’ve watched me do brave things. The reality is that I’m often scared inside, but I do things anyway because I’m determined not to let my fears get in the way of living life to the fullest.

Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra I.20 inspires me to live courageously:

Shraddha virya smrti samadhiprajna purvakah itaresham

Practice must be pursued with trust, confidence, vigor, keen memory and power of absorption

— Mr. Iyengar’s translation

Shraddha is faith – not just blind faith, but the kind of faith that is born from lived experience. Virya connotes strength and vigor in our efforts. Smrti is memory. Samadhi is profound absorption, and prajna is awareness.

So it goes something like this: Remembering the courageous acts of our past, we trust and have faith that the acts of courage now facing us will be similarly worth the effort. With strong-minded, vigorous intensity, we absorb ourselves in the act with total attention – even though we don’t know exactly how things will turn out.

virabhadrasana 3 (warrior/hero pose). Photo by

virabhadrasana 3 (warrior/hero pose). Photo by

This is the state that poet John Keats called “Negative Capability”: when one is “capable of being in uncertainties, Mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason.”

Practicing yoga asanas gets us used to this state of dynamic uncertainty. The benefits percolate out into life in general. Courage follows action follows courage…and so on.

The courage is felt in the instant of doing, when fear and doubts recede, and all is heart.