Today, I have finally divorced the wall.
Pincha Mayurasana (Forearm stand) is a pose I have always wanted to be able to do freely because it challenges my three weak spots - neck, shoulders and lower back. And if I could "conquer" this pose, it would mean I have become stronger in both body and mind. Kicking up into inversion poses when there is a wall was not a problem because I felt secured but once I've married to the wall, I miss the real learnings from falling.
Since I've resumed practicing power vinyasa (against Chiropractor's and Osteopath's order, oh well, that's a story for another time) for two months, I believed it was time for me to get out of my comfort zone and be more adventurous with my practice - that means facing my fear of falling head-on.
So I joined this Inversion and Handstand workshop at the park today and hoped for some breakthrough. After a long guided warm-up sequence, we were instructed to practise inversions on our own.
"Okay, this is it!" I puffed my chest up, clenched my fists and proclaimed.
Then, of course, came those memories, doubts, worries and a lot of procrastination. A lot.
"I might injure my neck again if not break it!" (haunted by the memories of some old non-yoga injures)
"I might hurt my wrists and lower back when I land in Wheel (a deep backbending pose to protect you when you flip over)!"
"I would make a fool of myself! How scary..."
"I don't wanna fall; it would be painful..."
On and on.
With these dialogues in my head, I made some feeble kick-ups, unlike my normally firm kicks with wall, fearing that I would flip over. I continued to make feeble attempts, wipe sweat off, look around, stare at the mat, and whisper to myself, "yes, you can do it! Even if you fall, you're on soft grass!"
But as everyone knows, fear doesn't have to make sense. I continued to procrastinate.
Then my friends, who had just arrived, came to my rescue. God knows what I would have achieved in the next 30 minutes other than starring at the mat and wiping sweat off if they hadn't come. One of them stood by to assist me in case I fell, so I felt secured to kick firmly into the pose. Physically, it felt good. But in my heart I asked, "How could I succumb to my fear again? When will I ever have the guts?"
After awhile under the brutal sun and heat, we strayed from the crowd and rested under the shade of a small tree. I sat down and circled the grass around me with my hands and feet, "oh god, this feels so good!" I said. I couldn't remember when was the last time I touched or stepped on grass with my bare skin. Suddenly, feeling empowered by the nature, I stood up, set up my forearms on the grass and tried kicking up again. I was just trying to fall and not so much in getting the pose. I wanted to fall. But after another few feeble kicks, I paused.
"Damn! I was trying to fall, but I was SO scared of falling that I didn't even allow myself to kick hard enough to be able to fall," I said.
"If you are trying to fall, you are not really doing a good job," my friend Michael said.
"Oh yes you're right! I was "trying"!" I said, "that's the problem! I should just fall!"
Laughing at my own realization, I set my forearms down, engaged my upper body muscles, lifted my core and hips, pushed the forearms into the grass, and firmly kick up into my forearm stand. I hoovered a little bit at the full pose and then slowly let my weight dropping more and more forward and fell onto the grass in a backbend.
It was easy.
I sat there for a moment to savor the experience before I DO another falling.
"This is actually a lot of fun!" I said, beaming like a kid.
It became clear to me that trying to fall was the problem. "Try" is the curse in everything. Just fall.
Falling is a great lesson I've learnt from yoga. Falling is not scary; the fear of falling is. Fear holds you back; falling frees you.
Before my first fall, I was so preoccupied by illusions and self-doubts that I didn't even dare to go for success, as in standing tall in the full pose. The truth was - I had way more backbend and strength needed to protect myself from the fall than I allowed myself to believe in. And our body instinct will just know exactly what to do when we get our mind out of the way.
My yoga asana (body poses) practice is a great tool for me to understand myself and reflect. From my practice, I see how I've carried the same fear of failure to everything I do - golf, changing careers, relationships, writing etc. For years, my fear of failure have led me into a lot of self-doubts and inaction.
Nonetheless, fear is not evil; it is just our natural mechanism to defend and protect. A warrior is not necessary someone who is fearless. Rather, it's someone who is courageous - acting even in the face of fear.
It takes guts to be a true warrior.