In standing bow pose, teachers tell us to stretch forward while kicking back and up, kicking and stretching equal and simultaneous, 50-50. And many times they remind us that if we have to fall, we fall forwards.
So I follow the dialogue, kicking and stretching. But the next thing I know, all my weight suddenly shifts into my heel; I lose the kick and the stretch, and I fall, backwards.
These past few days, in standing bow pose, I have been repeatedly falling backwards. And I’m not sure why.
So in today’s class, I tried to be especially aware of my physical movements and mental intentions as I progressed into the posture. I tried to pay attention to my thoughts as I moved deeper into the pose, in the hope of noticing what triggers my falling.
First, I considered the physics of the pose: the acts of kicking and stretching balance each other, so if I was falling backwards, my kick must have been stronger than my stretch forward. So why is my stretch forward not strong enough?
Somewhere along the deep breaths of the moist, humid air, somewhere along the drops of sweat that flow like rivulets down every curve of muscle and vein in my arm, I realized what was going on in my mind that made me fall out, time after time again. At the very root of it, I was scared. I was scared of what would happen if I kicked that much higher, because I’ve never been there before. It was unexplored territory. I was afraid it would hurt or I would panic, or lose my balance and fall out. So before I even got there, before I even kicked higher, I would fall out of the pose. My mind had fallen into a subconscious pattern of weakening my stretch forward every time I came close to kicking higher than I have before; thus making me fall out of the pose. By doing this, I was saving myself the risk of uncertainty. But I was also preventing myself from going deeper into the posture — I was preventing myself from improving.
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us…” as Nelson Mandela once began a speech. As I thought about my standing bow pose, his words made complete sense to me: I was afraid of my possibilities. I was afraid of the uncertainty that inevitably comes with going somewhere farther than we’ve been before.
But I didn’t want to be afraid; I wanted to face uncertainty with courage. So I assured myself that it’s okay if I fall; I just have to fall forwards, because by driving our energy forward instead of backward, we are exuding confidence and trust. I had turned on my light: I gave myself permission to explore the pose with absolutely no fear.
So I kicked, and stretched, trusting my body and myself. When I moved into my deepest expression, I breathed, calm. There was this moment of intense concentration, where I could feel the focus and determination of the practitioners around me, our positive energy connecting us. It was so inspiring.
And then, I fell out. I fell forwards. No fear, just courage and a willingness to try again.
Within seconds, several other practitioners had fallen forwards too, after reaching their maximum depth. I took out a whole row with me. One of Mandela’s subsequent lines came to mind: “… And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same …”
So in a sense, maybe I did 🙂