When Falling Is A Good Thing
One summer I was in-between jobs (in economics, they call that frictional unemployment... hey, just thought I should put this expensive degree to work where I can). Anywho, I was trying my best to keep things high vibe and so that meant lots of physical activity. Vinyasa classes, pole, and SUP yoga. I had messed around on paddle boards before on a handful of occasions, but had never taken a class or learned technique. Early evenings on the lake, I felt at home, surges of energy pulsing through my arms with each stroke and a grin no one could wipe off my face. This felt. SO. GOOD.
I'd be lying if I didn't fess up to humming a few bars of Pocahontas as I paddled out. I mean, if you've got an oar in your hand and are spotting blue herons and other amazing creatures as you drift over a body of water, you can't really help it, right?
When it came time to drop anchor and start the yoga part of class, that's where things got shaky. Stillness. Not my forte. Having to be still or find controlled movement and balance while drifting upon a moving surface. A tad bit more challenging.
Yoga has always felt like home for me. My body opens up in certain ways, I can anticipate the next pose because it's where my limbs are longing to go... But SUP yoga felt unsettling. It was recognizable and yet, unattainable. I'm used to flowing through a series no problem, and this was a new activity I approached with caution.
Simple asanas like a low-lunge brought an incessant jiggle in my legs and wobble of the board. When I amped up breath and took the time to reconnect, my body responded in kind, a calmness and stillness took over.
On the water, I found myself more self-conscious about my movements. As we organized ourselves in a semi-circle around the instructor, it felt like there were spotlights on the students. The practice went from something that was fully mine, a time to go inside, a trusting of my body, an opportunity to practice with closed eyes, to a structure that easily revealed mistakes.
Towards the end of class, we moved into handstand practice. Handstands were something I struggled with despite over 15 years of yoga. Usually I'd fling my body into the air and hope I didn't put a hole in the wall. Or, I'd cartwheel out on the grass and laugh it off in the privacy of my own backyard. Here, I didn't have those alternatives or safe methods to fall back on. I hesitantly lifted my toes off the board, one inch at a time. As my body found vertical alignment, I hung there, clenching my fists and squeezing my cheeks for all of 1...2...3... maybe 4 seconds?
BAM. BOOM. SPLASH. WATER.
I bobbed up and heaved myself back onto the board, clothes dripping (on what was a chillier night). I was embarrassed. This wasn’t something you could easily cover up or brush off. I literally made ripples and broken the calm surface of the lake. Had I messed with other's concentration? Become a distraction? I tried to let those thoughts go and refocus on the next pose. My mind was still in judgement mode though.
I found myself shakier than before, my ego bruised and flooded with self-criticism - my trust in my ability had taken a blow.
On the drive back home, I put some good tunes on and kept the windows rolled down. I was accompanied by a pink and purple sunset, able to enjoy beauty and mother earth for just what she was - however she wanted to show up.
The next class, I fell off the board again. But this time, I was more eager to fling myself up into a headstand. Less worried about the results, or what others would think. More interested in my own progress. Could I hold this a few seconds longer? Could I harness my breath and make it work in my favor?
The shift happened for me when I realized that falling off the board, the thing I feared the most had happened.
That big, scary thing happened, and hey, I lived to tell the tale. It wasn't so bad. It was refreshing actually.
I had been pushed outside my boundaries. I made mistakes. I was imperfect in front of others, and yet... I lived. Fear can affect us in different ways. Worrying about what others think can interfere with our own progress. I could've called it a night after that first trial class and never get on a board again. Or, I could realize that the 'worst' has already happened, and it wasn't so bad.
Risk-taking is courageous. It makes you stronger with each trial. The more you push to your edge, you discover more and more what you are capable of. And that potential? It is bigger than you realize. Grander than you could ever imagine.
So keep trying to handstand - whatever that impossible, big scary thing is for you. The good news is, the fall isn't that far, and when you rise back up, you've got nothing else to lose. And that my friends, makes you one dangerous, unstoppable person.
Remember, you’ve got this.
>>> So, where are you holding back?
>>> Where do you need to take a risk?
>>> How can you give yourself that extra push today?