Taking the fall…

December 5, 2009

This is a blog about budo, not yoga..

I stand five feet and seven inches above the surface of the earth. I’m not that tall by most standards. Average height. The ground is not so far away. Or so I thought.

My mind is consumed lately with the idea of falling. I am learning to fall, slowly, with my sensei. I am learning that the most important thing is to put my chin on my chest. I am learning that you can either control how or when you fall – but never both. I am learning that falling is not so scary. I am also learning that falling can take your breath away. I am learning that falling is an art as much as the intricate kata that I am studying.

When I began my budo training nearly eight months ago, I knew that I would learn to fall eventually. I studied with my teacher, sort of rejoicing that we spent almost five solid months learning other things besides Newton’s 3rd Law. But I knew it was coming. My friend joked with me that everything would change and my perception of the art would be altered when I started facing my body going down to the ground. He was right.

Falling is a different world.

I tell my yoga students that one of our most primal human fears is falling over backwards. We spend a great deal of our time controlling our falling. Walking, afterall, is just graceful, controlled falling. We see kids fall, see babies fall, see leaves fall. And we all avoid it.

Several weeks ago sensei pulled out the mat and said now we fall. I was anxious, but trusted that, like everything else he had taught me, this too would be paced and I would learn it gradually. I have learned a few falls. First, a backward fall. Then the forward rolling, and most recently a side fall. I’m still finding my way with all of these different falls.

I watch my teacher toss himself over on the mat so beautifully. It’s wonderfully graceful and he always comes out so nicely. I remember the first time I saw him take the otoshi (forward roll). I thought surely he did not expect me to do that. Oh, right, he does. Of course. We started with the backfall, which is still our mainstay. For some reason in practice, the backfall does not spook me. But in application when I am actually being thrown, I often grab desperately for my teacher’s keikogi, his wrist, his back, anything I can find. I curl up like a cat. Oh god, the ground, where is it?? My mind screams, and down I go. I am getting better at these and have even enjoyed them a bit recently. But you really cannot explain or understand this until it’s your body going down, carrying that veritable wrecking ball of your teacher’s body drop. You really have no idea what your body and mind will do. Hopefully, with good training, you’ll tuck your chin and go down, keeping the arms extended in front. You might even get a good slap. But all the while, even with proper execution, the monkey brain can be screaming NO NO NO!!! Or at least, that’s what they tell me.

I’ve experienced good and bad falls. Thankfully, none have been injurious. I’ve come away with a sore neck and some sore shoulders. But overall, the falls aren’t that bad. Recently my teacher threw me on a fall I’ve been bailing out of so fast I had no time to even try to bail out. There’s learning all around.

I’m learning to face some of my fears. Falling is giving me the courage to throw my uke with authority, execute the technique with a little confidence, and even face the unknown.

I know in my head how far I am from the ground (or mat). I know how to fall, from a technical standpoint. I know how to move and what to do. The next step is to get my mind to stop working, stop analyzing, and just take the fall.

Last week I finished the Challenge.  I took Advanced Thursday night, then proceeded to avoid the hot room for nearly three solid days.  I went back Sunday evening and took a class that reminded me in a not-so-gentle way just WHY I don’t take three days off.  I thought I was giving my body a break.  I thought I would love the time off.  I was wrong.

I’ve been struggling.  Struggling to keep my breath and heartrate under control.  I’ve been struggling with balance, slipping, and just flat getting annoyed with myself.  Today I sat down during the first set of Triangle.  Now, for me, this is a pretty big deal.  I haven’t done this is a very long time.  Who knows what was going on, but I had had it.  I was irritiated, annoyed, too hot, sweating incredibly hard, and angry at myself for sitting out.  Oy the brain can mess you over.    But as I sat down on my towel, I just closed my eyes and tuned out for a brief moment.

I’ve been holding very tightly to my control over my emotions, my practice, and all the chaos in my life at the moment.  In the grand scheme of my yoga career, missing a set of Triangle is nothing at all.  Save for this blog entry, I probably wouldn’t even remember it in a week.  I think this yoga attracts people like me.  Type A, control freak, driven, focused.  It is my best friend, and my worst enemy in the room.

I must let go.

I’m afraid of letting go.  I’m afraid of being three weeks from Training and becoming vulnerable to how totally blindly I feel I am flying to Mexico.  I’m afraid of saying goodbye.  I’m afraid of feeling the things I need to feel now.  I’m afraid of all the things I will go through in Training.

I struggle with doubt.  Can my body do it?  Can my heart handle it?  Can my mind shut up and let me learn?  Of course, the strong me says, Of course it can.  But the me sitting out of Triangle doesn’t quite believe it.

I must let go.

The more I try to prepare, the more I figure out that I can’t.  The more I try to understand the process, the more illusive it becomes.  So here I am in the middle of the struggle.  But in the end, I must let go.

Well, first of all, I am not sore. I went to bed SO incredibly sore I was near weeping when I pulled my aching frame under the sheets. But something happened between 11 pm and 7 am and I woke up with zero soreness anywhere. Really. I was so done with it yesterday evening that I told myself that if I woke up feeling stiff again, I was taking a day off. Nothing, not even a tight hamstring today. This yoga works, believe it.

Arnie taught 9:30 today. I haven’t been in that class in a while, but I love it. There’s so much energy in the room. There are a lot of “regulars” there every day. I took my new favorite spot and had a good class. It was HUMID to the max and my body moved well. I am thinking maybe taking it easy on myself yesterday paid off today. I was able to work a bit deeper than I have in a few days. Anyhow, boy was it a long one. Arnie taught a one hour, 49 minute class. I was feeling it by the end. I had a hard time in the first set of Ustrasana and ended flat on my back for fear of blacking out. I don’t know what happened. I wasn’t especially overheated or nauseas. But I couldn’t get myself even into the setup without the room seeming to spin. Second set was awesome and I felt that really killer stretch all the way up and down my body. So good.

So, since I’m always looking to educate myself further about my practice, this yoga, and all things Bikram, I have a special thanks to give today. Social networks are amazing things. Blogs, Facebook, Twitter, Myspace – they all bring us closer together. I think the Bikram world especially is tight in the virtual world. And since I never pass up an opportunity to live my life on the web, I really love it. I had the amazing opportunity recently to “converse” with Mary Jarvis on Facebook. Mary is the founder and owner of Global Yoga San Francisco. She is also a deeply respected name in the Bikram world. Mary offered me some fresh insights into my backbends. Since the Challenge began I have had a love/hate relationship with all things backward bending. But recently I’ve been having some discouragement and frustration with my backbends. Since Mary is all about the backbends I asked her for her insights. She gave them to me. My life and my spine will never be the same. Mary encouraged me to try some new things, do a few things differently and GO FOR IT!!!! I’ve been working on it. Today I finally felt it in the third part of Half Moon. I finally felt the zen of the backbend. I’ve heard about it. I’ve read about it. I’ve wished for it. Today I got it. And yes, Mary, I did squeeze the shit out of my hands! So, Mary, thank you. Thanks for encouraging and instructing, even from far away. You are a legend, and I long to meet you one day. Eventually, in the future. 😉

I’m considering a double today. I’ll keep you posted.

77/90

Day 57: Unsettled

July 27, 2008

I’m sitting here at 11:30 pm totally unable to sleep. I didn’t intend to get up and write. But here I am. And maybe the blogging will help my mind to slow down and rest.

Today was great. I took regular class at 9:30 then took Advanced at noon. I feel great. My body is really showing up for me and I can’t believe I’ve come this far already. 68 Classes! Wow.

But as I get closer and closer to Training, I am finding it very hard to settle my mind. Especially during class. I am constantly thinking. Constantly thinking about Dialog, constantly thinking about Training, constantly thinking about being away, traveling, what I need to pack, managing my life away from my family for nine weeks. It’s maddening. Some days are harder than others. Some days it consumes my thoughts and my energy. A week or so ago I had a very hard night, where I felt the weight of all of it hit me at once. I’m a strong person, I’m determined, I’m stubborn, I know I can do this. But, man, it can eat my lunch from time to time.

Even tonight, I was laying in bed, with a particularly tricky chunk of Dialog running through my mind. I knew I wasn’t getting it, I knew something was missing. So my brain ran over and over it. Then I started thinking of how I have less than seven weeks to go, and well, it didn’t help the relaxing part. So maybe I should just vent it all out and be real and transparent and vulnerable here for all of you. Maybe that will somehow purge this vicious anxiety for me.

Going away is huge for me. I’ve never spent more than three days apart from my children, ever. I’ve never been apart from Dave since we’ve been married for more than five or six days. Nine weeks is a little bit longer than that. And I guess really, it’s not about the time. It’s not even really the distance. The thing that sets my mind reeling is the unknown. I know I am ready for this, I know I can do it. I know that. I know I can do the yoga, learn the Dialog, I know I can face my demons, but what else is there? The unknowns of Training are the scary part for me. I like to plan, to make lists, to keep things orderly. I like to know when, where, why, who, and how. Yes, I’m a control freak. I readily admit it. It’s part of what I believe makes me who I am. But it also challenges me. Because flying away to Acapulco for nine weeks with a slew of unknowns ahead doesn’t exactly lend itself to a controlling personality.

I can’t control what will happen while I am gone. I can’t control how people will respond to my absence. I can’t control the grief I will have over missing my family. I can’t control how my life will be managed by others for that time. I can’t control the if’s and when’s of being in class twice a day for nine weeks. I can’t control the uncontrollable.

What I can do is believe. I can believe in my support system. I can believe in the path I am on and the direction I am going. I can believe in my own abilities, the strength I have, and my own determination. I can trust that the preparations I responsibly make for my family will work themselves out over time. I can trust Dave. I can believe that things happen, in season, at the right time, when we are seeking them. I can believe in the yoga. I can believe in the process. I can trust myself, and never give up. I can do all of those things.

Tonight, I got up and came downstairs frustrated with my body. I wanted to control it, make it sleep so I can make it get up and make it go back to my mat. I wanted that control. But Michael reminded me, “Your body doesn’t want to sleep, so listen to it.” He’s right, and I have. But the root of the issue is that more than just listening, I need to let go; let things be unsettled and messy from time to time. Let it go, Ren. Get on the plane, go to Mexico, do the Training. Let things be as they will be.

Namaste

Today my mantra is this:

Trust the process, trust the process, trust the process.. I can do this, I can do this, I can do this..


I am talking about two things, my 90 Day challenge and Teacher Training. Both of which are consuming my life right now. I am so blessed, and so amazed at how well all of this is going. But, I’ve had some moments of paralyzing fear as well. Not so much about the challenge. But more about going to Mexico in eight weeks. I mean, eight weeks.. Really, not that long. And I have SO MUCH to do before I go. So much. This is the control freak in me that needs to take a nap, and go away. I need to let go. I need to trust the process.

I’m off the mat again. Still not feeling well. And as I have told many of you, I think rest is paramount for me at this point to doing class. I can’t afford to wear out my body in any way this close to my departure. And since I am so far ahead, I have full confidence I will still finish my 90 days.

I can do this.

I had a hard day yesterday. I had a little bit of a panic attack. This is a huge deal for me, leaving my life behind for two months. I’ve never left my kids for this long, never been away from Dave for this long, never done anything like this since I got married for this long. I’ve gone away before, but never like this. This is brand new for me. And it’s scary as hell. I’m not going to lie. I’m tough, I believe in myself, I know I can do it. But it scares me. It scares me enough to make me work that much harder. Courage is only active in lieu of our fears anyway, right? Without fear, what would we need courage for? Nothing, that’s what.

So tomorrow I will get up and hopefully take class. I will move forward on this Training Application and put it in the mail. I will say a prayer of thanksgiving for the blessings in my life and I will remember how much support is all around me. I will trust the process and know that I can do this.

Namaste

I read yesterday in Michelle’s Challenge Blog something that made me really think. She opened one of her recent posts with the statement. Yoga fixes everything… if you let it. She’s right, really right. I know this to be true for myself in so many ways.

I’ve had a tumultuous week emotionally, dealing with a bunch of personal stuff that I won’t get into here. Thursday I stayed off the mat because I was trying to cope with something particularly painful, but looking back I should have gone. I don’t always want to get on the mat. The times that I fight it the most, those are the times I need it the most. It’s not the easy classes that change us. It’s not the mornings I wake up excited for yoga that carve out new territory for me emotionally and physically. It’s the ones where I feel like sleeping, staying in bed, and hiding out.

The truth for me is that this practice, in all its joys and pains, has completely changed me inside and out. This yoga has affected everything I do and the way I relate to the world. But I have to let it change me. I have to let it fix me. I’ve been good about getting on the mat even when I’m not excited about it. But now I have to remember that sometimes it’s not just getting on the mat, but letting. Letting the practice change me. Letting the heat and the work and the sweat clear things away. Letting those prayer beads of sweat work for me.

It’s interesting for me. I have never had any problem believing that Bikram Yoga heals the body. I’ve never had any problem believing the miracles that happen with chronic disease, health problems, illness, injuries. I’ve seen it. I’ve experienced it. In many ways, I have also always believed this yoga can fix emotional imbalances too. It cured my depression and has given me greater mental clarity than I have ever had. But it’s often harder for me to believe that this yoga can fix the pains of our life, stresses of relationships, and all the things we carry around day to day. Ultimately, it can and it does. I know this to be true today. It’s not always easy to stand there, 90 minutes of looking at yourself in your vulnerability, and understand the depth of change. But it’s happening. If we let it.

Today was my 40th class, taught by Arnie. It was awesome and I feel wonderful. 2/3rds of the way home. Advanced tomorrow. See you again soon.

Namaste.