Since we are continually on a journey of self improvement, this month on the YBC App and on the blog, we're discussing fear as it relates to different aspects of our lives. Earlier this week we talked about fear as a yoga teacher, and today I want to shift gears and discuss fear as a yoga student when it comes to the practice of yoga.
A confession: The one pose I was terrified to do - for years - was forearm stand. My headstand was on point. My handstand was coming along. But forearm stand? Nope. No way.
I was scared I was going to break my neck. See, I knew that my upper body strength wasn't quite where it could be (and it still isn't, if I'm being honest). But despite that, I had no problem practicing handstands - hey, I thought, if I start to fall, I'll just cartwheel out of it! I had no problem doing headstands - hey, I thought, if I start to fall, I'll just come into a really deep backbend (which was no problem for me). But with forearm stands, it was awkward to cartwheel out of them, and for some reason, falling into a deep backbend scared me even though I could do it from a headstand.
Related: Another pose that scared me.
The biggest fear was that my arms would give out and I would smash my face, break my nose or break my neck. Worse, I knew a yoga teacher who actually broke her nose from falling face first from crow pose, so I knew that it was an actual, legitimate fear.
So over time, I just avoided the pose all together, until one day I just decided enough was enough, and I really needed to work on it. I began working on it by coming into a supported headstand and pushing through my arms to see if I could lift my head. Sort like what you see in the video above, except I wasn't able to lift my head all the way up right off the bat. It took months and months of practice, but finally I got it.
From there, I needed to learn how to get into a forearm stand from a regular position, not in a headstand. Now that I knew I had the upper body strength to hold myself up, it was just a matter of finding the balance of my pelvis over my head and learning how to control momentum on the way up.
Now, it's no problem. It's easy for me to pop in and out of forearm stand. It is definitely not my favorite pose to do (by far), but I have finally overcome my fear of breaking my face!
If you're struggling with fear entering, being in, or coming out of a pose, here's what I suggest you do:
- Know the pose inside and out: Watch tutorials on youtube and yogis on instagram. Ask your local yoga instructor to demo and point out the key alignment issues. Consult Namaslay to find out my tips for coming in, being in, and coming out of the pose.
- Figure out what exactly you're afraid of. It doesn't work to just say, "I'm scared of wheel pose." You need to identify what aspect of it scares you. Is it that you're scared your spine is going to crack in half? Is it that you won't have the strength to hold yourself up? Get very clear on your fear, regardless of how irrational it is. Once you write it down or say it out loud, the power it has over you diminishes.
- Strategize ways to overcome the fear. Ok, so we've determined that, for instance, you are scared your spine is going to crack in half if you do wheel pose. You're scared it's going to snap in half like a Kit-Kat bar. Fine. My suggestion would be for you to do a yoga practice, so your warm, and then identify yoga poses that make a similar shape. So, for example, bow pose is a similar shape to wheel pose, but instead of being on your hands and feet like in wheel pose, we're on our bellies for bow pose. Can you do bow pose? Does your spine snap in half? Probably not. Continue on that way until you have the confidence to give the pose a try, and see where you go.
- Stay mindful. So your first wheel pose wasn't anything to write home about. It was not, as they say, "text book" wheel pose. Before you go getting all mopey, let's just keep it real: who freaking cares?! Every single one of us had to do a pose for the first time at some point, and guess what? They likely were not "text book" poses. So stay mindful. Pat yourself on the back for giving it a try. Pat yourself on the back for attempting something you were previously scared of. Give yourself a break because the yoga practice is yours and yours alone. You have nothing to prove to anyone, so stay mindful, stay hungry for improvement, but give yourself credit where credit due.
I'd love to hear what poses you were once terrified of that no longer scare you. What tactics did you use to overcome that fear?