Courage is the ability to do something even if it frightens you.  It is different from fearlessness and it is a muscle that can be trained.

Brene Brown writes in “The Gifts of Imperfection”, “Courage is…a habit, a virtue: You get it by courageous acts. It’s like you learn to swim by swimming. You learn courage by couraging.”

There are so many times we might not even notice that we are being courageous. Maybe you refuse to be a victim, maybe you show up for other people (family, friends, causes); maybe you show your vulnerabilities; maybe you allow your children to see you cry and feel sad; maybe you work on yourself everyday, maybe you feel pain and continue anyway.  

One of the areas in my life I am trying to be more courageous is in speaking up and asking for what I want. Somewhere along my path, I lost my voice. Every day, I have to work to be more and more courageous in these areas. I have thought a lot about not being able to speak my mind over the years. I find it funny, because it mostly happens in my personal life – saying yes, when I want to say no, doing something to please someone else.  In my business life, I find it easier. Maybe because I am self-employed. However, even there I have difficulty saying no, keeping my boundaries, standing by my cancellation policies etc. This year, I am working on being courageous in this area.

In the tradition of yoga I practice, we practice courageousness. When we work on a pose or breathwork that is challenging or hard, we create what we call Chalana or churning. On the mat, I can dive into the fear and work with it. I can also use this churning to consider the things I am afraid of and use postures, breathwork and meditation to help me find courage.  I also work with fear while hiking – I’ve been on some hikes where the elevation gain, distance or technique of the trail have created fear.  Whether I’m on the mat or on the trail, I might pause, take a breath and take small steps toward my goal.

I also like to remember that I do scary things all the time. I am much braver than I think sometimes. Even writing these blogs and sometimes sharing pieces of my personal life is scary but I think it’s worth sharing. I believe the more open and honest we are in the world the more open and honest a world we will create. An we will find friends in being courageous.

Here are a few ways to work on being courageous:

  1.  Notice every time you do something that you are scared to do.
  2.  Do something you are afraid of with another person – let them know about your fear and work through it together.
  3. Try to focus on the positives rather than the negatives.
  4. Read about other courageous people – consider Miep Gies, the woman who housed Anne Frank for 2 years in her attic.
  5. Try, try again.

As a Yoga Therapist, I can whole-heartedly recommend working with your body to develop and feel courage.  The next time you’re afraid, try checking in with your body to notice “what” feels afraid inside.  Then try sitting with it, just like you’d sit with a friend.  Don’t try and fix it, just offer it companionship.  Ask it a few questions or see what it has to say.

You might also consider trying any of the following:

  1. Do one thing a week that scares you a little.
  2. Do one thing a month that scares you a lot.
  3. Find support when you feel vulnerable.
  4. Help someone else who might come to you with something they fear.
  5. Meditate on what makes you feel scared.

Remember, courage is being brave even when we are frightened.  It is staying with our personal truth and what we believe in.

Where in your life are you already courageous?