Facing the Fear of Falling

Swami Vishnu-devananadaji performing the Scorpion pose for his guru, Swami Sivananda, at the foothills of the Himalayas (photo courtesy of www.sivananda.org)

I remember how badly I wanted to learn scorpion pose last year, and how hard it was for me. How many times I fell down attempting this inverted position! I sensed that there was a great benefit to performing it, to be able to physically embody the fearlessness and self-mastery this complicated posture demands. I used to try to do it quickly, which I realized was responsible for making me fall (along with my fear of falling).

Slowing down and taking the time to savor each step of the pose made such a big difference. Being completely present for each moment. Breathing into the point of fear I acutely felt in my back and at the pit of my stomach. Keeping my focus steady and strong. Trusting my forearms to support me completely, my desire to ‘achieve’ the pose began to vanish, as I held it. For a couple seconds. Then 30. Now for a full minute of total freedom, I suspend my body, inverted and liberated, not only physically, but from the grip of my own negative emotions: mostly, my own deepest fears. I feel my heart expanding, with equal parts compassion and courage: it takes courage, after all, to be truly compassionate, with oneself and others alike. I find that this asana, in many ways, returns me to myself. It teaches me a new respect for my heart, to let go, and taste the sweetness at the center.

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