The Three Motivations of Yoga

 Fear, Duty & Love

We begin our yoga practice with a sense of self care no matter the reason, whether it’s tone up, lose weight, release tension, maintain general wellbeing, help heal an injury or possibly, the search for a deeper purpose in life – and maybe, just maybe you believe yoga can help you find it.

There are three basic motivations which drive us to act, fear, duty and love. While all are an aspect of love the level and quality of the motivation can be broken down into these three stages.

So how can you make your fear, your duty and your love work to motivate you to get the very best from you? Before we explore motivation, it’s important to delve a little into the types of fear we experience and how this fear can be a barrier to mobilising you into motivation.


The type of fears we hold are primarily centred around three forms of control: judgement, expectation and desire.

1. Judgment

This is our perception of what we believe is happening at any particular moment, sometimes its accurate and other times it’s not. When we judge with fear our perception is telling us that there is danger of harm or pain. Again, sometimes accurate and other times not. An example of judging with fear, and it being inaccurate is our fear of harmless spiders. To the person who is terrified of spiders, this is experienced as a legitimate fear.

When we make judgements based on fear it makes it difficult to be accurate. We’re afraid and we act from a place of reaction. Here, we’re more likely cause harm than we are to move away from it.

2. Expectation

This is a belief that something is going to happen, or we expect things to be a certain way. Expectation with fear is to expect danger and harm and believing that this danger and harm is going to hurt you. If you expect to see the number 5 all the time you will notice the number 5 everywhere. We can attract good or bad experiences by how we set our expectations.

When our expectation come from a place of fear we create the outcome we’re trying to avoid.

3. Desire

This is a strong feeling of wanting to have something or to have something happen. When you desire with fear you become afraid of the thing that you want to have. This is what people mean when they say ‘self sabotage’. People can be more afraid of their success than their failure. In their failure at least they can say they tried but, in their success, they must maintain the success they achieved. Which is another level of responsibility to achieving the initial success.

Getting your dream job is a success, but doing your dream job well is another level of success altogether.

When fear informs our desire we limit our capabilities.

Making fear work for us rather than against us is essential to successful motivation. Knowing how your fear uses judgment, expectation and desire is a big step forward in taking back control of your motivation.


By Fear

Self-care often comes with anxiety, we’re worried or afraid of getting stuck in the discomfort in our body and our mind. A common example is a sore lower back that is beginning to affect your ability to move normally though your day. Or, being overweight and realising that walking up the stairs is challenging. There is also the social pressure to look good, looking young, fit and healthy can be a stress on your general sense of wellbeing. Or it can be the fears around a sense of loosing oneself, the feeling that something is missing.

There are many possibilities, and these are but a few examples, but the theme is the same – you are motivated to start your yoga because your self-care is coming from a place of fear. So, you go searching for a yoga class and so begins your yoga journey. You find a teacher that works for you and your yoga practice begins.

Sometimes it can be a magical start where you find immediate relief or release and you think yoga is amazing. Often it can be a slower process where the benefits come more gradually but your motivation to do something about your situation keeps you attending classes.

After a very short time for everybody who attends regular yoga classes the benefits are felt, your body is toning, your tension is releasing and your pain dissipating, you are feeling better and your reasoning for starting in the first place is easing.

For some this makes your motivation stronger and others it can reduce it once the initial fear or pain subsides. Your change in motivation stops you going to yoga classes – it could also be that there was a change in your routine, or your favourite yoga teacher stopped teaching classes in your area.

So yoga fades into the background and shortly afterwards fears begin to creep back in again and the stop and start process of your yoga journey has started – the Yoyo Yoga Phase.

By Duty

Then at some point, when you normally reach the stage where you stop practicing yoga, you continue! Even when you’re not in the mood or your schedule has changed, and you must adapt to continue, you do yoga! You find the space. You find the time. You recognise the benefit of your yoga practice and it begins to move up the list of your core values.

You’re now doing your yoga practice from a place of duty as you know how good it is for you. There is a great sense of taking ownership of your practice. A simple example is rather than going for a massage to release your tension, you release it yourself through your practice. You reduce the amount of pain killers as you need them less. You find yourself thinking healthier and eating healthier. We have a strong sense of duty to take care of ourselves and it becomes a powerful commitment.  We’re leaning on less ‘things’ because more and more, we’re standing in our own personal power and vitality.

In this place, you’re no longer motivated by fear; self-care has come more to the fore and you are empowered by it. You know that no matter how you feel before your yoga class, you will always feel better afterwards. You’ve know how to self sooth.

As yoga rises through your core values you’ll spend less time doing things that we think relax us, but are often just a distraction. You’ll observe yourself releasing tension and not embracing situations which heighten it. A few examples are ‘Apping out’, over socialising, negative thinking, to name a few.

Doing your yoga from a sense of duty is a wonderful break through as it gives you a greater sense of purpose with your practice which can overflow into the rest of your life.

A sense of duty is a very powerful form of motivation.

By Love

When you’re doing your yoga practice and loving it, you don’t notice the effort you’re putting in because you’re getting so much in return; you’re doing it out of love. The benefits are over- flowing your yoga mat and moving into your life.

The moments of bliss in your practice, become part of your every day. On the mat, as your heart opens it begins to open in your life. The power you feel in your body when you practice is coming through as personal power in your life. You are standing in your ground and realising that where you are standing now is exactly where you are meant to be.

Your motivation comes from your authentic drive within. Life is radiating through you. Your personal power is purposeful. Your heart is open as your innate wisdom comes to you spontaneously. Clarity and a sense of inner freedom gives you a peace of mind that is invaluable.

Fear can be our friend or foe

My simple example here is a story. You are standing on the edge of a cliff with your best friend and deadliest of enemies. You are on the very edge and one more step will send you over the edge or make you step away from the edge. Which step does your best friend tell you to take and which does your enemy tell you to take? Now which step does your fear tell you to take?

Listen to your fear and don’t be afraid of it as it has your best interests at heart. Know it comes from a place of love and use this knowledge of your fear to motivate you.

By Roy Griffin