Everyone has their own sanctuary, and for many skaters, theirs is the arena. Looking at Yuri on Ice, specifically at the character Katsuki Yuuri, we see that he is no different. However, Yuuri is a special case since he only felt safe on the ice when he wasn’t under any pressure and could be himself, at least, in the beginning of the anime.
In the first episode, we find out that Yuuri ranked last in his first Grand Prix Final and later see him in the bathroom crying because he feels he let everyone down. Even though he was depressed over his results, he still practiced on his free time. The first thing he did after returning home was go to the arena. Most figure skaters go on the ice and practice the things they need to work on the most or practice their next routine for their SP or FS, but Yuuri went on the ice and skated to Viktor’s advanced program almost perfectly. It’s in this performance that we see a side of Yuuri that is obviously different from his Grand Prix Final results.
For Yuuri, skating without pressure allows him to be free and skate without inhibitions. The fact that he can do whatever he wants without worrying about results allows him to skate much better than he would with people watching and judging him. The safest place for Yuuri is an empty (or almost empty) arena where he can do as he pleases. He saw the competitive ice as something scary and uncomfortable since he associated it with his failures rather than as a refuge.
Even after Viktor became Yuuri’s coach, it is clear that Yuuri is most in his element when he skates to things that he is familiar with, those themes and elements that make him Yuuri. His sanctuary was turned upside down when Viktor announced that Yuuri was going to skate to eros, which is a theme suited for a much stronger personality, like Yurio’s.
A New Sanctuary
However, as the anime progressed, Yuuri slowly found something within himself as he practiced in his safe haven and on the competitive ice that allowed him to break the boundaries between the safe ice and the scary ice. It was this new self-discovery that helped him turn the competitive ice into a sanctuary; a place where he could finally skate freely with his newfound emotions surging through him, allowing him to be himself on the competitive ice for the first time.