"Do one thing a day that scares you" - Eleanor Roosevelt
The other day in class, we practiced some pretty challenging poses: bakasana (crow pose, an arm balance), bird of paradise (a standing balancing pose) & headstand. Challenging poses that can also be scarey.
As a teacher, I'm mindful of when & how I teach these challenging poses. I teach not just the "culmination" of the pose, if you will. But also many variations that can be practiced along the path to the culmination. (for example, for crow pose, it may be enough to have your hands & feet on the ground, but have more weight in your hands - so you begin to feel what it could be like to balance on just your hands). I like to make each pose accessible to students of all levels. I like everyone to feel successful.
As I taught, I talked about what these challenging poses can trigger in different people. Some people hear the name, see the pose & immediately decide they can't do it. Some people think they're not strong enough, not flexible enough. Some people get scared.
The poses I taught were challenging, yes. But truth is, the whole practice is challenging. Each pose has it's own challenge. Some people love crow, some hate it. I was never afraid to try headstand - I didn't give it a second thought the first time it was taught in a class that I was in. But for many years, wheel/backbend frightened me. I was scared I was going to get hurt (how? I don't actually know). It was more just a feeling of fear that came over me when I attempted the pose.
Trying challenging poses & noticing what comes up & how you deal with it - that to me is the point of the challenge. Do you get agitated off because you can't "do it"? Do you feel defeated, unsuccessful? Do you criticize yourself or the teacher who's teaching? Do you avoid the challenge entirely? Can you practice working through it? Your response most likely carries over into your everyday life & how you deal with challenges there.
Years ago, I went on vacation with a friend & 2 other couples - I didn't know the other couples. One day, we rented mopeds to go touring. Everyone but me had driven one before. There were 6 of us, but we rented 3 mopeds & everyone took turns driving. I was asked if I wanted to a turn to try, but I declined. I was scared. I think not so much of crashing or getting hurt. But of looking silly in front of people I didn't really know. I look back & see a missed opportunity. It was a growing edge. Not a huge one, but still. A chance to try something new & different & not care about how I looked or what others thought.
Kind of like my wheel pose & the fear that went with it for years.
I missed the opportunity to drive the moped - I know I'll have another opportunity & when it comes along, I'll take it. Now on my mat, after years of practice, I take wheel pose with gusto. I have fun. I love how it feels to open my heart & stretch my body & play my edge.
Every challenging, scarey pose is a chance to practice. Every challenge, every fear is a chance to practice. That's yoga that you can take off your mat.