I fall a lot in yoga. Lately, even tree pose, especially on the left side, has been my undoing. It’s admittedly annoying because there have been long stretches of my life where vrksasana (tree pose), virabhadrasana III (warrior three), and other balancing postures have come easily. This is not one of those times.
My first reaction was heavy judgment and reprimanding of my body for not being able to balance. I encouraged, “body, you can do this, you’ve done it before!” I chastised, “body, you’re not living up to your end of the bargain – you’re supposed to be getting better at yoga with regular practice, not worse!” I bargained, “body, if you hold this pose without falling, I won’t do any more chaturangas for the rest of practice.” And finally, I started to give up, “well body, I guess our time for balance has passed. It was nice while it lasted.” I may have sighed rather resignedly. This quote from Yoga Journal sums up my feelings quite nicely:
“There is something uniquely frustrating about losing our balance in one-legged postures. It goes beyond the instinctive fear of falling and strikes directly at the ego. After all, we rarely tumble to the ground and hurt ourselves; we simply put our other foot down. Yet that simple act can be maddening.”
Then I remembered three of my 2014 mantras – be playful, be kind, and be curious. Now instead of tensing and judging when I fall out of the pose, or when I can’t even get into the pose, I’m practicing laughing to myself. Sometimes I have to force out an awkward bark of laughter, sometimes all I can manage is a smile, but I try to avoid frowning or squinching my face up into a scowl. (Squinching may not be a word, but I was an English major so I’m taking some artistic license, okay?)
If (when) I fall, I’m trying to be kinder to my fragile ego. Instead of tearing it down, or even promising we’ll do better next time, I just say “Oops! We fell! That was silly. Good effort. We’ll try again tomorrow.” (I realize I probably sound like a lunatic when I talk about talking to myself, but the conversation is happening whether I want it to or not, so I’m trying to take control of it.)
Finally, I took an honest and curious look at what I can learn from this constant toppling over. I found that I’m struggling to balance things everywhere in my life right now, not just on the mat. I tend to be on the go or on the couch. In fact, my life often feels like this post from Hyperbole and a Half called, “Why I’ll Never Be an Adult.” I go from “CLEAN ALL THE THINGS” to “clean all the things?” on the regular. That’s not balanced my friends, and my yoga practice seems to be reflecting that rather plainly. So I’m going to have be diligent (another 2014 mantra) about cultivating balance – both pushing myself to move forward and giving myself space to rest and recoup. Balance doesn’t mean a 50/50 ratio of these things, but it means feeling good about whatever the ratio is.
It all seems like it should be easy. I would like it to be easy. I would like to just step into these poses, and into perfect life balance, with a serene smile and a peaceful glow. Instead, I’ll to continue sweating bullets, muttering curses under my breath, and choosing again and again to adjust and readjust until I’m steady.
“But we can’t achieve this harmony by remaining absolutely still. Instead, we must refresh our balance moment after moment. The sustained effort to center and recenter, when successful, brings not only our flesh and bones into balance but also our nerve impulses, thoughts, emotions, and very consciousness. Hence, we feel calm. Equilibrium brings equanimity.”