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To Fly Is To Jump

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by Jessica Abelson

THUD. The sound reverberates loud and clear in the small, crowded yoga room. Eyes dart to the source: Me. In my attempt at Crane Pose (Bakasana), I had not soared but crashed with a faceplant to the ground.

Usually when a class moves into arm balances, I take a resting position and admire the more accomplished yogis. Their strength and balance astounds me. Who knew that a normal human being could pull off some of these maneuvers? I see the teeny-tiny young woman float up with immeasurable strength. I see older yogis hold poses that I didn’t even know were possible.

Clearly, people of all constitutions, body frames, and ages can perform these poses. Still, I’ve always feared that I didn’t yet have the strength or balance to attempt them. But on this particular day, the teacher encouraged us fearful few to take the leap and try to make it into the pose. OK, what the heck, I’ll give it a go, I tell myself. I take a few small hops off my feet to balance on my arms. I make a little leeway but continually fall back onto my feet.

Realizing with reluctance that I have to go farther, I give an extra push off the ground and … there it is, that awful sound: THUD. Arms and legs still wrapped in the position, I fall onto my face in the middle of class. I somehow manage to fall half on my side, saving my face the full assault, but that doesn’t help my ego. I feel exposed as a novice, as someone who tried and failed.

With a laugh to brush it off and a mental scan of my body to make sure all bones are intact, I slowly fall back into the gentle rhythm of class, but “thud” echoes in my mind.

I peek around the room to see who witnessed my fall, but to my surprise I notice that no one is paying attention to me. A woman in the corner is resting in Child’s Pose, someone else making adjustments to lessen joint pain, another waving her arms to balance. And that is just the view from the outside.

I realize in that moment that whether in one position or another, whether mentally or physically, whether known to the others around us or not, we’re all working through our own practices and our own struggles.

As class carries on, I feel my embarrassment wash away with each forgiving exhale. I understand that I have my own path and my own timeline. With each yoga class I attend, the better my balance and strength become. With each attempt at a difficult pose, I add one more block to my foundation. And if I fall a few times in order to construct these poses, I think that’s OK.

I don’t know when I’ll be able to accomplish this pose, but I do know that sometimes the only way to fly is to jump.

Jessica Abelson is the Web Editorial and Office Assistant at Yoga Journal. She is finding her way into arm balances.