Google “Learning to Fall” and “Yoga” and you will find there are a multitude of articles. Many advanced yoga postures put us upside down and crosswise; it is pretty much inevitable you will fall a few times as you learn them. Falling is part of the process, often even a good thing to help us with life in general. It assists our balance for unexpected tumbles off the mat, the slippery sidewalk, the banana peel.
“Falling”, or perhaps more accurately “Failing”, in yoga is a metaphor for life.
We learn through failure, our own, or perhaps if we are observant, that of others. I am sure you are aware of the quote attributed to Thomas Edison’s search for ways to make lightbulb filaments last: "I haven't failed -- I've just found 10,000 that won't work."
A few weeks ago, I was involved in a relatively high-profile virtual communications project. A first of its kind ag industry event attempted because of the COVID pandemic. It was by all descriptions, a total abject failure. Yet I was told: “Andy, please keep trying. It’s important that we figure out how to do this.”
Sometimes things just do not go as expected and we learn from that. Witness for example recent events for SpaceX. Within a span of a week they had a rocket blow up in test, and yet a few days later put men into orbit. Total disappointment, total jubilation.
When you fail, get up, tend to your wounds and bruises, and try again.
If you have never failed, you have never tried. And that is not a life to live.
(To be clear, my attempt of Revolved Triangle Pose - Parivrtta Trikonasana on a wobbly log was quite a reach. This posture is difficult for ACL-less Andy even on a flat yoga mat. Learn from me…)
We make a lot of funny shapes in yoga. At times it may appear there is no actual utility in them. Really, how often do you need to stand on your head anyhow?
These shapes, postures, poses, they are strengthening in ways that might not be obvious.
I celebrated a victory yesterday, because of yoga. I finished collecting the last of this year’s switchgrass straw bales. Every year I pick up all these bales, on our incredibly steep farm field, by hand. They get loaded on pallets, on my trailer or truck, and then are immediately sold to other farmers or go in the barn. Thousands of repetitive lifting and twisting movements, walking up and down uneven terrain.
The victory was because this is the first year that I did this without wearing my knee braces. Knee braces that protect my knees because I have no Anterior Cruciate Ligaments (ACLs) anymore. I destroyed the ACL in my right knee nearly thirty years ago playing tennis. The left ACL went 8 years ago when I jumped off my bulldozer onto uneven terrain. Both gone.
My knee braces no longer fit properly. This became apparent about a year ago as the shape of my legs shifted due to yoga. These x-rays were taken as part of the process to custom fit new braces. Then I got mired in frustrating discussions about how the actual order was to be made, insurance, etc. They were never ordered. I had no properly fitting braces to wear as I farmed this spring. And I didn't miss them.
I am “brace-less”. Because of and thanks to yoga.
Below is the letter I received after my first donation to Feeding America. I chose this organization to support because....
There is a Chinese Proverb: “The best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago, the second best time is now.”
This is the way I feel about yoga. I wish I had started it long ago.
I think my nearly six decade old body would be in significantly better shape than it is today. However, now, with just a handful of intensive years of yoga under my belt, the physical difference is still quite noticeable. What might not be so clear are some of the other benefits of yoga.
Yoga isn’t just a physical practice. It isn’t simply “stretching.” It isn’t twisting yourself into contorted shapes (unless you want to).
It’s getting in contact with your body, as a gateway to getting in contact with your mind. This readying physical practice or “asana,” is what you typically see in pictures of yoga in social media. What you don’t see are the equally important images of breath control or of meditation. Those practices aren’t “cool,” aren’t “flashy,” aren’t “Instagramable” like the photographs of someone like me standing on my head.
Consequently, because what is typically shown seems totally unattainable, maybe even crazy, you might think “yoga is not for me.” Let me correct the record.
Yoga is for everyone, whether you can hang from the ceiling or prefer to sit in a chair. Whether you would like to meditate or would like to move. Yoga is vast, with multiple styles and multiple speeds.
When you find the yoga flavor and instructor that fits you, that is when the magic begins — the magic of using your breath to more easily move your body and of using your breath to still your mind — the magic of perfect synchronicity of the physical and emotional person.
At this point you might be saying that all of this sounds like absolute bunk. I come from an engineering background and am currently a farmer, so not too long ago I would have totally agreed with you. However I am here to tell you today that it’s real, and when the moment comes that you experience this clarity, it is life changing.
What is also life changing is the yoga community. As a yogi you become part of a family.
At my lead studio we refer to ourselves as being part of the Wellness in Motion family. It’s a family that cares for you, that wants you to succeed in whatever form that fits. A family that supports you on and off the yoga mat.
Perhaps the coolest thing ever about being part of the “yoga family” is that you can walk into a yoga studio anywhere and instantly feel at home — no secret handshake required. It doesn’t get better than that.
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