Learning to Fall

Every week, a student attends my restorative class with her mom, coming to yoga straight from figure skating practice. She’s nine. The average age of the other students is maybe 35. When I asked her recently how the skating was going, she replied that she “fell A LOT tonight.” She smiled. “But,” she noted, “that’s good - it means I’m doing the harder stuff.” She went on to explain that actually the first thing the skaters are taught is falling. When she began skating a couple years ago, the first lessons were focused on how to fall safely. 

I listened. How wise. Practice falling. Face that fear head on first, and then when it happens, which it inevitably will if we’re really living, we may be a bit better prepared. That makes sense. But... I don’t like to fall. I like to play it safe, I like to plan, I like to work slowly and methodically. I will check, double check, triple check, and then check just one more time that things are set up just so, to ensure that I don’t fall. These tendencies have served me well. Then I thought of when I have fallen, and I began to acknowledge the worth in tumbling down. If we practice falling, what is possible?

Four years ago, when I was re-evaluating my life after the deaths of two people very close to me, some major shifts began to stir in me. I looked at my fears with steady vision; I looked at my deep passions with even clearer eyes. I realized that a fear of the limits and lack-luster that come with clinging (and thus living within others’ constricting expectations, rules, and constructs) was greater than a fear of falling, of being ungraceful, of causing a bit of upset and upheaval. I began to accept that letting go of control needed to be practiced more often and more thoroughly than had been my pattern.

I fell. I fell out of line, fell a bit out of control, and abruptly left a long-term relationship that did not fit my spirit. I allowed myself to fall in love. I fell into the sport of climbing (which I had never thought I could do!), a practice where falling (safely) can be part of growth. And, feeling quite ALIVE, smiling that the world caught my fall with such a loving embrace, my yoga practice began to deeply take root. This is when my personal practice found clear inspiration and discipline and led me to the school where I would begin my trainings. 

After falling in various ways, I was feeling so vibrant; lo and behold, I did not smash to bits upon impact! After some settling and readjusting, there was a deep grounded sense that came after falling; I was standing firm on fresh ground. After all, I was caught and held by my own self respect, nurturing communities, and clear purpose and direction. In falling, the old is released, creating space to bring in new energy. 

If we practice falling in small ways, within a safe container, we gain strength physically, emotionally, spiritually, so that when those bigger falls come, those we can’t plan for or anticipate, we can fall with greater grace and stand a better shot at getting back up a better version of ourself. 

Oh, all this talk of falling gets me thinking of the expansion that is possible for me right now if I just loosen my grip a little... And I still don’t like to fall. It’s not pleasant. There is risk involved. I’m a safety-first, slow-and-steady kind of gal. But when my student brought up the importance of falling (of the growth that’s possible if we fall and get back up), I was reminded that a part of surrender, a vital practice, is letting go, and sometimes when you let go, you are going to fall. And when you do fall, who knows what beautiful possibilities will catch you.