Post-class savasana. The room is silent; the lights are off; students quietly gather their things and exit the hot room. I walk to the back of the room, stand with my back to the wall, about two feet away, and take a deep breath. I bend backwards and place my hands on the wall. Slowly, I place one palm a few inches lower on the wall. Then the other palm. Repeat. So I’m essentially “walking” down the wall. Soon, I’m less than a foot away from the floor. I’ve never been this far down before. I am terrified.
It is interesting to think about how I’ve gotten here. To this point. Now.
My yoga journey, though just barely over two years, has taken me through some interesting paths. Some parts have been wide open, clear, straight-forward, like a lush grassy field beneath a calming blue sky. Some have been rather stagnant, like a field of mud – I’m stuck, trying to wade through, but not making much progress. And some have been absolutely unexpected, in a bad way. Like taking a step only to have the ground give way beneath my feet.
Yes, at one point in my yoga journey, about a year into it, I fell through. I wasn’t watching where I was going; I had no idea that I was using the practice to push my body past its limits until my mind was numb, drowning out the disappointment and regret left by past empty holes in my life. I wasn’t using the yoga practice to cultivate awareness; rather, I was using it to shove the past into a corner out of sight instead of dealing with it directly. Yes, I fell through in my yoga practice, and landed in a crumpled pile, scarred, scared.
I didn’t return to the yoga room for month after month after month. I couldn’t bear the thought of stepping into that hot room, for fear of my mind once again non-stop racing through those criticisms and negative reinforcement that the practice brought up. The practice forced me to accept reality and be present… but I didn’t want to do that. So I just stopped practicing. It was interesting to experience (with sadness) how my physical practice, all the stamina and endurance, all the strength and flexibility that I had worked so hard for, slowly disappeared. There was a point when I would wake up every day in pain. I didn’t believe that my body, which once carried me to the stage at the National Bikram Yoga Championships in LA, was really mine. It certainly didn’t feel like it.
What was interesting, though, is that as so many aspects of my physical practice became inaccessible, my backbend did not change. It was still as strong and deep as it had always been. At the time, it was the only thing that reassured me that not every part of my yoga practice was slipping through my fingers and shattering on the ground…
But really, I love the yoga so much. It pained me not to practice, it tore both at my body and my soul. The process of returning to my yoga practice was a long one and certainly not easy. I was so emotionally attached to so many things (both positive and negative) and yoga forced me to realize that if I wanted to move on, with my yoga practice and with everything else, I had to let go of those attachments that were only holding me back.
Yoga introduced me to self-acceptance. At first, I hated it… but I grew to realize that self-acceptance is the only way to make progress in certain situations. Yoga taught me not to judge so much, not be so critical of myself.
Yoga taught me not to fear. Not to fear my possibilities.
Today, I think I took a huge leap in letting go of that fear. In that backbend, my hands less than a foot away from that floor… I decided to let all inhibitions aside and take the final step, the final step of taking my hand off the wall and trusting that I can place it on the floor without collapsing.
I did it. I backward bended and touched the floor. I trusted myself. I didn’t collapse.
Letting go of fear… it’s very powerful.