I have an older sister, she is 2 years older than me so she was also 2 years ahead of me on a bike. I was on a tricycle, she was getting off her training wheels, I was on a bike with training wheels and she was riding a shiny red big girl bike. I longed to ride that shiny red bike, but my feet couldn’t touch the ground at all and I still had to have the training wheels to stay upright until my Psoas muscles got the message.
Well like most kids we all manage to work through the progression of tricycles, training wheels, big kid bikes, then onto mountain bikes and road bikes. Remembering these humble beginnings can be very helpful in yoga practice. We have to start on the tricycle, like downward dog and standing forward bend, then we hope to learn how to do a few actions at the same time and progress to the training wheels, like crow or full wheel but at what point do we get stuck with the training wheels? At what point to you try a pose that is “too advanced” for you, a pose where you might fall and even hurt yourself?
Timing is everything.
If you take off your yoga training wheels too early you may indeed get injured, physically and psychologically! It took me many attempts to get off the ground in wheel pose and even after I could awkwardly and painfully get off the ground I held my breath and tried to just stay up while enduring sharp pains in my back and shoulders. Part of me believed that this pain was simply part of yoga since I felt it in almost every pose in the beginning. Of course there is good pain and bad pain and in the beginning I’m sure it was bad pain like taking a jump with the shiny red big girl bike and crashing, we never had helmets back then either of course.
So eventually, I took those training wheels off, learned how to get my entire body integrated and viola, I can now lift off the floor in Urdhva Dhanurasana with ease, and I even know the Sanskrit, how to assist someone else in it, how to teach someone else how to teach it to someone else! Progress on the path if you will! Urrrrrtttt!!! Hold it!!! Rewind, the training wheels have been off for a few years now and and of course the next step is a drop-back, an unassisted standing pose to a backbend. I was plain terrified when I was first introduced to a drop-back in 2007, I felt like a skinny kid getting on the Zipper ride at the fair, scared shitless and like I wasn’t ready for this ride. I will keep my training wheels Sir, thank you very much.
Of course, we learned them assisted and with help you can drop back and land, albeit awkwardly, it was safe and pure awesomeness. Hell ya, I love the Zipper!!! Then like most yogis their comes a time in your home practice where you think, it’s time for me to do this, no more training wheels, I’m just going to bust it out! Similarly, like when I was a kid wearing a helmet might have been a really intelligent decision before attempting a drop back on my own in my home practice. In mid drop, fear took over, I realized I had no training wheels on, this was it, I wanted my Mommy, and…………… BOOOOM, THUD crashed down right on the top of my head, like I didn’t even have and arms.
Let’s just say, I went back to the training wheels for a while before ever even thinking of trying that again. Ego bruised, neck sore, fear of death rightfully placed in my mind/body. Time goes on and the desire to feel the rush of the Zipper returned so this time I approach with more caution, lessons learned on the mat. I place a pillow, okay a couch cushion, behind me to soften the blow if there was going to be one. Wouldn’t you know it, I totally missed the cushion and crashed once again on my neck but this times my arms did a little bit to help me instead of completely abandoning me. With, every attempt, fear comes, but now I breath, go over everything I need to do in order to be safe in a drop back and go for the ride. I can now, most of the time, land like a feather on the earth, no boom, no loud thud, no training wheels.
I would have never ever been able to grasp some of the asanas in yoga if I didn’t go through the cycles of support but I also had to be willing to take the risk, to hit the jump on the shiny red big girl bike. If you aren’t willing to take the training wheels off you will inevitably get stuck in your practice, be satisfied with what you can do today and extinguish the natural desire within you to expand. It is your nature. Stepping on your yoga mat is one hell of a wild ride, depending on what poses you choose to do of course. If you stay with the ones that don’t challenge you or have a risk, you might eventually get bored and stop trying. Do something in your yoga practice today that can scare you at least a little bit, one more breath, 1 inch deeper, kick up a bit harder, be okay with falling on your face. Just see what happens.
When you get on the Zipper buckle up and enjoy the ride!