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Yoga Speak: Fear

Anne gathers all her courage to drop into a backbend from standing, hitting her head in the process.

I''m hoping the third time's a charm.

I hit my head at yoga. Then, I did it again and, shortly thereafter, once more.

These three hits happened accidentally on purpose as part of my efforts to drop into a backbend from standing.

It’s scary, but I am not ready to stop. I console myself with the thought that hitting one’s head is supposed to happen in three’s so, hopefully, I’ve also hit my quota.

I’m not sure why I feel so compelled to get into a backbend this way when I can get there in other ways. I can’t really identify my incentive, but I feel like it’s a barrier that I have to break through.

I also must confess that this might partly be a mission by the high achiever that resides inside this sometimes fearful girl.

What I do know is that it’s not really so yogic to push as if going into some kind of battle that I am impatient to win. I know I’m not supposed to fight to get a pose, but that hasn’t stopped me from setting a deadline for myself on this.

My best guess is that backbends are supposed to be about opening the heart and the dipping back is supposed to be about facing fears. So,maybe, on some level, I am trying to do both.

It’s a surrendering.

And I think that’s my barrier. It’s risky to surrender.

I do take the instructor’s words to heart when he says to crack open your chest when we bend back in any fashion. This imagery really works for me, helping me to lean further and further back, to lift my heart up and back, to lift my arms and stretch out of my lower back and to get a good look at the back wall.

My heart has been closed for business for a long time.

Maybe that’s my barrier, too.

Several times a week, at the end of class, the instructor dips me back three or four times. That’s when I hit my head for the first time, even though I landed my hands.

We’ve been doing this for a few months, and now he says he is spotting me less and less. I have a much better feel now for how I need to ground myself more in my feet, tighten more in my core and straighten more in my arms in order to make a safe and strong landing.

The other day, I arrived home after a good practice, thinking the time has got to come when I risk dipping back on my own.

And I decided that time could be now. I could surrender now.

So, I laid out my mat, put a chair cushion in the middle as a safety net and set myself up to dip back, on my own, all by myself.

Ever so slowly, I reached up and bent back, back, back, until I passed the point of no return and landed my hands with a bounce.

A big day! I could even do it again and again!

I took that confidence to class the next day, only to have it buoy me for one but not another, when I landed my hands but then bounced on my head. Hit number two.

The instructor made me do it again for the very reason I hit my head.

Another day later, another class, another try. And that’s when I reached my quota, hitting my head for the third time.

And now I feel like I’ve hit some sort of wall, even though it’s really just the mat.

I'm scared to try again.

This has turned into a bit of an emotional endeavor without too much rational thought, the existence of which may be moot anyway should I keep hitting my head.

But what I do know is that I need to keep trying.

I want to get to the other side of that barrier and see what’s there.

Anne is a regular columnist at elephantjournal.com. A collection of Anne’s posts can be found at YogaSpeak.blogspot.com and Facebook.com/YogaSpeak.

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