First of all, please don’t worry about feeling vulnerable when practicing yoga. It’s a common phenomenon and it doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with you. Yes, it can feel uncomfortable. Let’s face it, who does like feeling vulnerable? But, ultimately, vulnerability is an opportunity to grow. (Learn about Vulnerability & Bravery.)
Reasons You May Feel Vulnerable
Yoga can push at your boundaries. This can be in a number of ways - challenging you to try things you haven’t before, to do things you find different, even just to show up to a new class where you don’t know anyone. All of these have the potential to leave you feeling vulnerable.
Yoga can trigger old memories or repressed feelings. There’s something about yoga asanas that can mean you find yourself suddenly overwhelmed by a past memory or a forgotten emotion. Some people even believe that we store painful experiences in tension and tight spots in our bodies. So, when we practice yoga, there’s the opportunity for these to be released. Understandably, this may make you feel vulnerable, especially when it happens unexpectedly.
Yoga can be scary. One of the things about yoga practice is that it can challenge you to do things that frighten you - to take a backbend or to turn yourself upside-down. And fear, especially to feel fearful in front of other people, is likely to make you feel vulnerable, too. (Learn more about The Nature of Fear.)
Yoga can make us face our own limitations. Many people associate vulnerability with weakness, and they’ll avoid any situations where they can’t do something because they are afraid of being perceived as weak. In yoga, though, it’s a very rare yogi who can "do everything.” There will inevitably be asanas that don’t suit your body, or things that you can’t perform due to injury, inflexibility or lack of muscular strength. If you perceive these as weaknesses rather than meeting them with acceptance, you are likely to feel vulnerable.
Confronted With Yourself
Yoga makes you reconnect with yourself. Often in life we avoid facing our most uncomfortable thoughts and feelings. Instead, it’s tempting to distract ourselves with work or entertainment, or numb ourselves with alcohol or drugs. In yoga, you are encouraged to come into the present moment and hold space for whatever arises. To be confronted with the reality of what’s going on in your mind can be terrifying, particularly if you’ve avoided it for a long time. (Learn more in 'Holding Space': What Does It Mean?)
What You Can Do About It
Treat vulnerability as you would any other emotion that arises during your yoga practice. Notice it, observe it, meet it with compassion and, most of all, don’t judge it. It’s there to teach you something about yourself and it will help you to grow, as long as you embrace it rather than suppress it. Be gentle and kind with yourself; and when you stop fighting, you’ll be amazed how liberating vulnerability can be.