Letting Go to Fly Over Your Fears

Written by Heidi Kristoffer

When I first came to yoga, I was extremely inflexible in my body and in my mind. Super type-A, a total control freak. The concept or idea of "letting go" or "trusting in a higher power" was completely ludicrous to me.

One of my teachers, David Regelin, has often said in class, "well adjusted people are willing to readjust." I always laughed, thinking it was a funny play on words. I was more than happy to take or make adjustments... on the yoga mat. But, off the mat? Off the mat, I realized I was not so willing to re-adjust or let go of things or concepts I "thought" were "right".

Aparigraha: one of the Yamas of yoga: non-attachment. Most relevant to me at that time in my life: non-attachment to outcome: doing things without expecting any results.

Which brings me (shocking) to my favorite subject: inversions. Inversions and falling. Being okay with falling. Doing the poses, showing up to the mat, with no expectations of any sort of out come. Letting go.

One of the biggest barriers in practitioners’ inversion practices is the fear of falling. When you are falling out of an inversion, you are decidedly not in control.

One day, I was on a lawn (a rare moment for a New York City dweller) and I had an overwhelming urge to just try to flip over into wheel (warning: back must be super warm to do this, and being comfortable in wheel is necessary.) So, I tried. It took a few (a lot of) attempts: I kept getting to that edge where I might fall over, and my control reflexes would kick in, and I would stop myself. But finally, finally, I fell into wheel. What a rush! I did it again, and again, and again. The more I did it, the more comfortable I became with those few scary moments of being completely out of control. Then, out of nowhere, I found my center: upside down on my hands. I am a big believer that in order to find one’s center, it is helpful to know what off-center is.

Inversions are a big part of yoga for me, as recognizing that we can’t always be in control is a big part of yoga for me. If you are always planning the result, it is a bit difficult to be in the present and focusing on your breathing. So, learn to fall. (And when you realize that landing in wheel or doing a cartwheel is the worst that can happen, there is nothing to be scared of any longer!) Falling is part of yoga, just as it is part of life. I like to laugh when I fall, because, why not? I am certainly not going to get upset about it. Children never get annoyed or angry or embarrassed when they fall -- why should they? When is it that we, as we get older, lose the ability to fall, learn from it (maybe re-adjust), and get back up? Children and their actions can be great teachers. They have yet to develop an ego, and thus react to situations completely differently. As the saying goes, “It is not how many times you fall, it is how many times you get back up.”

So fall, be okay with it. Don’t judge yourself. Be okay with not controlling every second of every situation; “adjust” your mindset. Let. Go. And then, fly over your fears!

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