One Less Fear

I didn’t head to practice this morning with the intention of doing anything exciting, even though Friday mornings have become a favorite of mine for yoga practice. Pete Guinosso teaches Candlelight Vinyasa on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at Yoga Tree Valencia and it is such a cool way to start Friday off, leading into the weekend. It is fun to practice in such a beautiful environment and something about darkness and candles encourages you to honor yourself and how you came onto your mat that day. On Fridays, Peter also has an amazing assistant – Alex – who knows exactly how to tell you what to do in a pose to make it work better. 

The whole class seemed more energized today – likely due to the first sunlight we have seen in San Francisco in about 10 days. It has rained pretty much every single day since my arrival here in California. I am not going to focus on the auspicious nature of that weather report. Rain helps you bloom where you are planted.

I was excited when Pete introduced inversions mid-way through class. I haven’t done a lot of inversion work in the past few weeks, mostly because I have been in classes that are pretty packed or where the theme hasn’t really lent itself to it. As loyal readers will know, one of my favorite yoga moments of all time was the very first time that I learned how to do handstand at the wall. For me, handstand will always represent a letting go of fear and an ability to embrace strength that you didn’t even know you had.  

As Pete demonstrated the choices for inversions today, he spoke about how fear limits us more in inversions than our own physical limitations. And he asked a question to all of us:

How much of what we take to the wall is what we are fearing – not what we are feeling?

While handstand has been a joy for me, forearm balance at the wall is a different story – it starts out with your hands/head in dolphin pose, but you end up in a position that is very similar to handstand at the wall. I know that a lot of people learn forearm balance as their first upside down inversion. Apparently, it is viewed as an “easier” pose because you start off closer to the ground with a stronger base. Not for me. Forearm balance is a riff on Dolphin - a pose that I love to hate. So assuming the same position I loathe - to flip myself upside down - really wasn’t an exciting prospect. Dolphin is just a super uncomfortable pose for me. It also makes me worry about my neck, because it seems to just hang out there in space, just waiting to get crushed. And no amount of Forrest-relax-the-neck focus has changed that fear for me – yet.

But this morning, after doing two handstand inversions, I thought to myself that I honestly had never really tried forearm balance. I had just sat in dolphin a lot, done some fake kick-ups, and told myself that forearm balance was years away.

Was I fearing this? How could I say that I couldn’t do something if I had never really tried?

So I put myself in tabletop and meticulously set my hands up for dolphin, measuring carefully on my arms. I popped up my feet, waited for an exhale (shout out to Peter C for this inversion tip - ALWAYS go up on an exhale) and kicked my left leg up. Almost like magic, my right leg went right up.

And there I was. On the first real try – in forearm balance at the wall.

I had done it on my own. With just my own strength. No extra set of hands to help, no one watching or spotting.

It was fun to walk out of class with a little bit of a secret. The sun was shining on a beautiful Friday morning. Oh, and – no big deal, universe - I can do forearm balance at the wall.

And that is the truly awesome thing about yoga. There is always room for an unexpected, unintended surprise. You come in for a regular practice, and you leave feeling like a rock star.

And more importantly - today - I have one less fear.