Falling teaches lessons about her fears

Published 12:30 am Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Sometimes you’ve got to fall to overcome a fear of falling. That’s what I learned in an interesting way recently. Before I go further, let me tell you how I came to a place where falling was something I feared.

I practice yoga. The poses are good for building strength and flexibility, and the breathing associated with the practice — well it changed my life.

Yoga also helps you know yourself. It challenges you to connect with the “stuff” that tends to get you stuck. Not only the physical stuff, but also the mental and emotional baggage. It is a freeing experience to let go at the end of a yoga class and relax completely.

So, part of yoga is discovering your challenges. For me, being able to do certain poses became big challenges. To push myself, I set deadlines, something left over from newspaper days.

My first deadline was my 60th birthday. By age 60, I wanted to do a backbend. It took months of trying and overcoming my belief that doing this at “my age” was impossible. The first time I pushed up into a backbend, I was anxious, excited, happy and in shock all at the same time.

With this accomplished, I set myself another goal, a bigger one. I decided before the end of my 62nd year, I wanted to do a headstand, something really scary.

Now, I don’t know why doing either of these poses was so important, but they got in my head. As I inched toward my 63rd birthday, I was glad I could, with the help of an inversion bench, get easily into a headstand, or at least a supported version of one.

But I wanted to stand on my head without the help of a bench or a wall. A couple of times, I made it up for a few seconds and felt joy mixed with the fear that was always whispering in my ear.

“What if you fall?” it said. “You are going to hurt yourself.”

Many times, I let that whisper stop me from trying things. I was determined not to let it stop me this time.

We are now at the falling part. Last week a few days before my birthday, I was doing yoga poses beside my bed when I decided to give headstand another try. This was the first time I tried without the benefit of a wall close by.

I got myself set and begin to lift up. That is when it happened, the thing I feared most. In one big whoosh, my legs flipped over my head and with no wall to catch them, crashed into the bedside table.

It took a minute to realize what happened and to realize nothing was broken, not the lamp that fell off the table or any bones. I pulled myself up and felt what I can only describe as relief.

“I fell,” I said. “And it turned out OK. Take that fear.”

I was so elated I decided to try again — this time facing the bed. It was a repeat performance except my legs crashed into the mattress leaving me hanging in a predicament.

“Oh Lord, I’m stuck,” I said.

I couldn’t push my legs up and I couldn’t roll to the side.

“This is not good,” I whispered.

After hanging for maybe five minutes, I figured how to roll my head under and push into a shoulder-stand, something I could get out of.

Lying on the floor, I started laughing. Laughing at my need to try a headstand and about falling, then getting stuck and surviving.

I knew there was a lesson here. It dawned on me that fearing and getting stuck happens not just in yoga, but also in life. And, surviving both is possible too.

So yep, I fell, but more importantly, I survived and moved on. And on the eve of my birthday, I successfully did a headstand.

Now what will I do before age 64 arrives…


Nancy Blackmon is a writer and yoga teacher.