Through instinct and practice we learn to walk, just as a bird learns to fly. Just as we cannot walk right away, many birds cannot fly right away and must wait for their muscule structure to develop but in order to survive learning to fly is envitable.
As a baby bird takes its first leap into the air, they are not overcome by fear and merely, awkward as it may be, are following their instincts. Since fear is a learned behaviour, a baby bird does not yet know to be afraid of jumping off the edge, as they watch their siblings take that leap and their parents flying overhead they know that that is what they are supposed to do. With many hard falls from nest to ground followed by an even longer journey home, the bird begins to learn, through their challenges and dissappointment, the mechanics of flight.
As they continue to practice, their falls to the ground become more controlled and with a little encouragement from their folks, they begin to leave the nest for longer periods of time as they learn more advanced techiniques on how to utilize the wind and begin to control their landings. Eventually all of these tools become instinictual and requires no thought or analyzation on how to get from Point A to Point B.
As we watch a bird soaring through the sky, and a few flaps of their wings as they play in the wind, diving and circling around we think how wonderful it would be to be able to fly.
In yoga, arm balances are often referred to as our chance to “fly.” But unlike a baby bird, many of us, for years have developed a fear of stepping outside our comfort zone. A birds body is made to fly, just like ours is made to walk. They are able to use their lungs, and their pectoral muscles to float through the air as the air below them keeps them afloat.
Our years of overdevelopment of fear causes us to be afraid to fall, afraid to learn through trial and error, whether from embarrasement or the determined words “I can’t do it!” As we watch the people beside us, with ease, jump into crow or handstand or even bird of paradise and stare in amazement “how do they do that?”
To start, let go of the fear! Let go of the fear of falling on your face, you probably will at one point or another, probably in front of a room of people. It’s OKAY! Everybody else in the room was there at one point or will be in the future. Use your falls as way to learn what NOT to do next time. We learn to let go of fear and learn lessons from the challenges or falls every day, whether its taking a chance on a relationship and then learning from the mistakes to not repeat them in your next relationship or getting in front of a crowd of hundreds to speak. Fear is constantly with us! Yoga Journal has a great article on the “Fear of Falling” and says;
“it’s time to consider another necessary ingredient for progress: mental discipline. Just as much as you’ll be excited by your first successes, you’ll be deeply frustrated and discouraged by your failures. Arm balances are therefore the perfect poses to practice persistence in the face of challenge, as well as non-attachment to the fruits of your labors.”
While I’m no expert on arm balances and continue to tackle this “fear of flying”, I’ve slowly come to realize that it is really only fear that is holding me back. If I take a deep breath, and not worry if I fall on my face and who sees me, it makes Bakasana that much easier to get into and perhaps even hold for a few breaths but there are still the days when my fear wins and I can’t for the life of me even take one foot of the floor. It’s an ongoing battle, this fear and me, I know it exists and try with every effort to bring it out in the open. Some days I win, some days the fear wins, but knowing that it exists is the first step to letting it go.