How much is fear restricting you?
I had amazing practice with Flavia last week. At the beginning of the hour I asked if there was anything in particular she wanted to focus on during the class. "I can't do arm balances," she said. "So let's do those." After some warm up vinyasas we got to work.
Flavia told me that she struggles with balance and isn't strong enough to hold arm balancing poses. I asked her to show me how she gets into bakasana (crow pose) and, with near flawless alignment, she set herself up for the pose. The moment she lifted her feet off of the floor she slid backwards and fell. Although she wasn't able to stay in the pose, I was skeptical of her claim that she couldn't do it. I asked her to try again and this time placed a stack of blankets at the top of her mat so that if she fell forward it wouldn't hurt. Still, she slid back down her arms and onto the floor.
I then told her to come into the pose and try to touch her face to the blankets (aka fall forward). She was terrified! Finally, though, she shifted her weight forward. Even though she didn't do what I said (she didn't fall!), she held herself up in a beautifully aligned crow.
We practiced this idea of getting over the fear of falling (mostly by practicing falling onto blankets and rolling out of inversions) throughout the class, and by the end Flavia was flying up in crow, side crow and even getting into headstand. It wasn't lack of strength or balance keeping Flavia floored like she originally thought: it was fear. And once she overcame it, it was gone.
It got me thinking about how much I allow fear to restrict my own practice and my own life. It took me two years to get into headstand (I was really, really scared!) and I still feel like I miss out of a lot of great opportunities because I'm scared of all of the things that could go wrong.
Flavia hasn't fallen on her face in crow, but I certainly have. And you know what? It wasn't that bad. I recovered. I look back on it now and laugh. It goes to show, I guess, that some of the scariest moments don't look so awful in retrospect. Perhaps we should just give them a go?
To quote A. A. Milne:
"Supposing a tree fell down, Pooh, when we were underneath it?"
"Supposing it didn't," said Pooh.
After careful thought Piglet was comforted by this.