Yoga, Climbing & Fear

Last weekend, I headed out climbing with some of the Wednesday Yoga Lab crew. After months (and for some, years) of coming to my classes and being invited routinely to do things that take courage, I got to be on the flip side and meet my edges in a big way.

Whether we’re on the mat or on the mountain, it seems that the overall energy of this group is to work hard, play hard, dance with our edges and support each other along the way. This day was no different. But this time, I was the brand new, shiny eyed one amongst a group of experienced and highly skilled, spider man like climbers.

The only time I’d ever been climbing was on an indoor wall in Jr. High. Once. It’s a faint memory.

What I love about being an absolute beginner at something is that being out of my comfort zone allows for hidden aspects of me to show up in full force. I get to revisit parts of me that I do not encounter day to day. This day in particular, I got to meet with my old, longtime friend, the one that only comes out all dressed up once or twice a year, one that I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with- Fear.

Boy did it have some things to teach me this day – and thank goodness for great climbing teachers/seasoned yogis that had fantastic yoga-applicable suggestions & insights that helped me along the way!

Fear begins with a thought.

Yes, perhaps there is an instinctual kind of fear that exists when you’re in fight or flight mode. And though some would say that hanging off the side of the mountain is one of these times, I noticed that my fear really began with a thought. The more I thought I was in trouble, the more I felt I couldn’t do it, the scarier it got. It’s like the quote by Henry Ford, “Whether you think you can, or think you can’t, you’re right.”

Fear is contracting.

The moment I felt fearful, my vision narrowed and I could no longer see the big picture. It was near impossible to look side to side to find my next hold or my next step. My ability to see options became increasingly limited. My body shook – especially my legs, which apparently is called, Elvis Leg in the climbing world…I had a lot of that going on!

Clinging on holds you back.

As evidenced from my sore fingers and tired biceps, I did a lot of clinging on in fear of falling. Ultimately, this just held me back and tired me out. So I learned to soften my grip, let go of the outcome, and lean into the experience.

Building trust takes time.

I received some great insight that day – that the first few climbs, I’m really just learning to trust my equipment and to trust myself. Is my foot really going to stick there? Will I be supported if I fall? Will my grip hold? How far can I reach? How strong are my legs? Learning to trust our own bodies is not always a given. It takes dedication, commitment, and simply doing it over and over again.

Small steps are easier than big ones.

Rather than always looking for the biggest step, look for the small ones. Use your legs, one move at a time. That way, you’re not doing chin-ups the mountain.


Ha! How many times have I reminded others to do this in yoga! So simple, and it works ;).

So wherever you summer adventures take you, I hope you have a chance to play and dance with your edges – you may meet a old friend that has been hidden inside for awhile and also spend time with other friends that have so much to teach you.

A huge thank you to Tandy Malstrom, Arwen Caines, Kristin Walsh, Pascal Cote, Duncan Perry, Don Shipton, Emily Mark, Andrea Barrera and Charles Goodheart for being so inspiring, supportive and patient. What a wicked day with huge smiles and laughter all around. You are the best crew of climbing teachers a girl could ask for!


Alice Hong

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