Discovering My Fear Story (one of them anyways)
Confession time. I fear some backbends the way other people fear going upside-down. Two examples that scare me to pieces (that I feel I should, at the very least, be working on) are drop-backs (going from standing to dhanurasana or wheel pose), and falling into dhanurasana from handstand. Last week I was listening to Brian Aganad's podcast (it's awesome btw, check it out if you have time). This particular episode was all about facing fear of inversions, but you can apply what he was saying to any fear, really. Which got me thinking of my own practice, and some of the things I pretty steadily avoid. Brian asked the listeners to have an honest look at what their imagined "worst-case scenario" was - what's your "fear story"? He gave the example that some people thought they would fall out of handstand and crack their head open and die. Whoa, suddenly I was thankful I never feared death during my practice! So what was I afraid of, exactly?
It took some pondering, because my fear story didn't involve both my shoulders popping out, landing on my face, or any kind of bloody situation. I've certainly fallen into, and intentionally gone from handstand to wheel before. But I decided long ago that my preferred exit strategy from handstand is the cartwheel, and that's where I have (quite happily) stayed. And while I've worked on drop-backs with the wall and with a teacher - I've never consistently worked at it because wheel has simply never been a comfortable place for me. My shoulders feel maximally strained, as do my wrists. But I have worked persistently through all sorts of discomfort in many other poses, so what was my holdback here? I finally figured it out - t's the gap. The fall. The act of letting go. The athlete and performer in me are trained and intentional - they want full control of my limbs as they travel through space. In both drop-backs, and handstand to wheel, after using up whatever available strength, balance, and flexibility you have, you have to let go and allow yourself to be at the mercy of gravity before reaching the ground, and the next part of the pose. This surrendering of control is what I can't bear to face every time I roll out my mat. This is a bit of a psychological revelation, and I can suddenly think of multiple situations in my life where I have stuttered at the decision line; scared of what would happen after committing one way or another. Afraid of letting go of where I am, nervous of landing in the bed that I will have clearly made for myself. This reminds me of the part in The Bhagavad Gita where Krishna explains to Arjuna that inaction is also a decision, with consequences of it's own. I'm more determined than ever to face this fear now that I understand what is going on.
I love these instances. Discovering something obvious about my life because it is mirrored all too clearly in my practice. But just as my mat can be a catalyst for non-yoga 'A-HA moments', it is also a place where I can work & progress. My mat is a confined, easy space in which I can experiment with new decisions, and reinforce useful patterns. I can work on confidence, increase familiarity, learn to stay when I want to quit. If I try something that doesn't quite work, I can try again... or leave it altogether. It's my own little laboratory, in which I can hope that by tinkering with the formulas & reactants on the mat, I may see fresh, desirable results in my life.
Do you have a "Fearful Asana" in your practice? What is it? And what's your Fear Story? Or maybe you have made peace with a pose you were once afraid of - how did you do it? Let me know in the comments!