Experience yoga that will scare you

May 27, 2023 0 Comments

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If you think yoga retreats are a way to escape the stresses of everyday life, you’re not alone. They can be a chance to relax and get rid of our worries. While time to rest and recharge is definitely valuable, taking time off can also be an opportunity to shake things up a bit. When you step beyond your perceived limitations and face your fears head-on, you can emerge from the experience feeling refreshed and energized. In fact, some of your deepest personal growth can come from being nervous.

Why so? The answer lies in our brain chemistry. When we are faced with fear or challenge, our brain releases a burst of neurotransmitters, including dopamine and serotonin. They are often called hormones of good mood. Although we may not think of fear as a pleasant feeling, this rush of chemicals invigorates us and makes us feel alert and ready to take on the world.

The benefits of facing something that scares us go far beyond the immediate adrenaline rush. RY Langham, PhD, a clinical psychologist at Impulse Therapy, emphasizes “the importance of stepping out of your comfort zone to promote personal growth and development.” According to recent research, people who regularly engage in “disruptive” activities, such as trying new foods or traveling to unfamiliar places, report greater personal growth and a stronger sense of identity than those who continue with their usual activities.

Attending yoga can be an act of embracing the unknown and engaging in new practices, but adding an extra element of challenge can be another way to push your boundaries.

“Retreats are often a good starting point for overcoming deep-seated limitations while supporting others on similar healing paths,” says psychologist and health and lifestyle coach Laura Chandler. “The more you practice stepping out of your comfort zone and engaging in social behaviors you normally avoid, the easier it becomes.”

It’s okay to ask for support

While pushing your boundaries can be rewarding, knowing where to draw the line is an important part of the journey. For example, if you have severe seasickness, a week-long sailing or kayaking trip may not be suitable for you. It’s good to take small steps to “build up your courage.” progress as you feel more comfortable.

A solo vacation in a remote location after a breakup can give you strength or sink you deeper into grief. Know yourself and plan something that doesn’t feel too overwhelming. If you suspect that the activity will be emotionally difficult for you, make sure you have the support you need. You may want to schedule time with your therapist before the retreat to gather some coping tools. Or travel with someone you trust to share the experience.

When you feel discomfort, there will be difficulties along the way – that’s the point of stretching yourself in this way. But set yourself up for success to leave the shelter feeling inspired.

Here are some ideas on how to go beyond your self-imposed boundaries.

Go far from home

Traveling far from home exposes you to new environments and cultures, increasing cognitive flexibility and creativity, says Langham. Visiting a place that is geographically or culturally far removed from your usual environment can broaden your horizons in ways that are not only eye-opening, but life-changing. A trip to the southern hemisphere, such as Patagonia or New Zealand, can bring you closer to nature and give you a new perspective.

Keep your courage: Visit an area or a nearby city where you have never been.

A man lies on a bed and reads a book in a structure with glass walls.  Behind the glass cabin there is a view of the hills, mountains and water in New Zealand
(Photo courtesy of Pure Pods, New Zealand)

Go alone

Studies have shown that time spent alone promotes self-awareness and self-discovery. Therefore, if you always travel as half of a couple or in a group, book an individual holiday.

“One of the first obstacles in this journey of self-discovery is the fear of doing it alone,” says Chandler. Being solo doesn’t mean you have to be completely isolated. Choose a location that allows you to engage in activities alone or with others. At Alila Ventana in Big Sur, California, you can do morning yoga before taking a solo stroll around the grounds. You can also sign up for a gratitude audio journey, an astrology reading, or space yoga, where you can explore the stars while connecting with your own body and mind.

Keep your courage: If it seems too difficult to make the entire trip on your own, start small. Consider making a reservation at your favorite local restaurant.

Go where you don’t speak the language

Learning the roots of yoga in India can be incredibly rewarding, perhaps especially if you also learn one of the country’s many languages. “Immersion in a foreign language can improve your cognitive functions, such as memory and problem-solving skills,” says Langham. In addition, it is a way to communicate with people from different backgrounds. You don’t have to visit India to find a place to practice yoga in another language; consider a trip to Greece or Thailand to connect to a yoga practice while immersing yourself in another culture.

Keep your courage: If you’re not ready to travel yet, consider taking a language course or downloading an app to learn the language of the country you’re visiting.

Swim with sharks

Facing your fears can help build resilience and self-efficacy. If you’re nervous in the water or afraid of what’s in the water, try swimming with reef sharks and docile manta rays at Joali Being the Maldives. If you’re afraid of insects, try beekeeping at Carmel Valley Ranch, California, or book a bee venom facial at La Valise Tulum that starts with a sound bowl treatment and meditation. Feeling a little uncomfortable in the dark? Consider the experience of a dark retreat, which is said to provide an opportunity for improved clarity and deeper insight. By immersing yourself in this environment, you can discover new ideas and gain a sense of heightened awareness.

Keep your courage: Not ready for the full experience? Find a Glow-ga class near you where you can flow in the dark lit up by glow stick necklaces.


Silent meditation can be difficult for some people and even unnerving. Spending time in silence has been found to promote self-regulation, reduce stress and improve mental health, says Langham. This can be a powerful way to reconnect with your inner self. If you combine your quiet journey with a few hours of swimming in the woods, like at Spruce Peak in Stow, Vermont, you can immerse yourself in the sounds of nature.

Keep your courage: Spend the day in a quiet place—a park, a museum, a comfortable chair in your own home—with your phone turned off.

A woman in a white dress with blue flowers swings over the jungle in Bali.
(Photo: Courtesy of Ingrid Young)

Fly high in the sky

Experiences that trigger the release of adrenaline teach us to manage anxiety and cope more effectively with stress. Dive into yoga while swinging over the jungle in Bali or ziplining in St. Maarten. Feeling even more daring? Go down the historic Queen Juliana Bridge in Curaçao.

Develop your courage: Start building your tolerance for being in the air with an aerial yoga or acroyoga class.

Push your body to the edge

Your body is capable of incredible feats, and exploring its potential can be life-changing. Why else do we challenge ourselves with handstands and hand balances? “Challenging yourself through intense exercise boosts self-esteem, confidence and overall well-being,” says Langham. Combining surfing and yoga can test your balance. An intensive freediving experience at Four Seasons Haulālai will take your pranayama practice to the next level.

Keep your courage: Take a snorkeling lesson that starts in the pool before your instructor teaches you how to scuba dive in open water.

Follow your dreams

“Following our dreams and participating in activities that align with our values ​​contribute to a sense of purpose and well-being,” says Langham. Look for a vacation that allows you to immerse yourself in something you’ve always wanted to learn or do. Attend a writer’s retreat, sign up for a theater workshop, or join a wine tasting. There are a variety of creative retreats that include elements of yoga or meditation, such as a photography and yoga retreat, a stone sculpting and yoga retreat, or a yoga and spinning retreat. Depending on your interests, you can combine yoga with any type of creative activity from jewelry making to painting.

Develop your courage: Get started with a creative online class from home.

About our contributor

Ingrid Young, an internal medicine physician and yoga therapist, has been teaching yoga for over 20 years and conducting trainings and retreats around the world. She is also an author of books Adaptive yoga and Hatha yoga asanas. Learn more at www.ingridyang.com.

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