Falling as part of the process

I fell out of a headstand in yoga class today, and I’m pretty excited about it!

No, I was not teaching. (Those of you who take my classes know I don’t teach these things; I still experiment with them on my own from time to time.)

There was actually a time in my life where I was really determined to get up into a headstand with the use of a wall behind me. There was also a time when I was able to do it in the center of a room while being spotted by someone so I wouldn’t topple over. That time was many years ago, before my illness and my diagnosis.

Given that I’ve had some breaks from teaching classes, I decided back in December to re-become a student. I tried Iyengar yoga for the first time, and re-fell in love with taking classes. It’s helped develop my own practice and also influenced what I bring to my students. But I digress….

I was in a level 1 Iyengar class today, which is one of the regular classes I attend. Both the teacher and assistant know me. Claire had done what I thought was a fabulous job of preparing us for headstand. The fact that I felt well-prepared and safe to attempt headstand in the class at all is awesome. As a teacher with my own health challenges and physical limitations, I’m pretty picky about who I take classes from, and I feel I know my body pretty well. John (the assistant) demonstrated various options, including *not* going up into the full pose. Since I was able to do the pose a few months ago in a similar situation and we had the wall, I decided to try it today.

Now, I have never been strong enough in my core to do it without a little “kick up”, and so I lifted my left leg to do this. However, I wasn’t getting enough energy to get my other leg up, and both legs to the wall, so I fell back down. I tried again, with a similar result. “OK”, I thought, “I just need a little more juice!”

Despite having students to either side of me, I was confident and not afraid. I tried to give myself more energy, and the next thing you know, I’m in a near fetal position on my left side–thankfully not touching anyone else, and…smiling? John came over and asked if I was OK, noted he didn’t see what happened. “Yes”, I assured him, “I’m fine.”

There was not a touch of embarrassment or anger at myself as I lowered into Child’s pose. There was not a sense of fear about trying it again (I just knew I was done). With my forehead down on the mat, I realized that despite feeling “well prepped”, there was at least one really good reason why I should not have attempted it: I’d been sick for the past 2 weeks and was still feeling fatigued.

After class John asked again if I was OK. I explained to him that yes, I was, and that I probably was not sufficiently recovered from being sick. He said learning to fall is helpful: “when you go to do it in the middle of the room, you topple over many times”. In that moment it occurred to me that I have never allowed myself to fall out of a pose. Not ever, not even once. Fascinating!!

At least in this moment, I’m still smiling because I’m not afraid, and I feel like this fall has given me a valuable insight about not just my practice, but about myself.

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