For a long time, I was convinced that I had to do everything on my own. During my early years of practicing and teaching yoga, I was so committed to achieving—the perfect pose, the packed class schedule, the sold-out retreat—that I rarely asked for help, even when I felt like I was drowning. I was so scared to fail that it triggered my nervous system’s fear response. I would either power through my day like a bulldozer, with my head down and my body curled inward, or my mind would be wound so tightly that I would freeze from confusion.
Balance poses triggered the same fear reaction. For years, I was so afraid of face-planting in Eka Pada Bakasana (One-Legged Crow Pose) that instead of reaching outward by shifting my chest forward sufficiently or lifting my back leg back higher, I would drop my head, curl inward, and inevitably fall to the ground.
Then one day, a teacher held my back leg in the pose. With that support, I flew. I started to use props in the rest of my practice to achieve this same feeling of being supported. The results were profound. I could feel the truth of what my practice was teaching me: By reaching out, I gained the support I needed. This is often the case with asymmetrical balancing poses, such as Ardha Chandrasana (Half Moon Pose), in which our arms and legs stretch out from our center. Most shapes in this category are actually easier to hold when you reach out strongly rather than tentatively.
The realization that asking for support isn’t a sign of weakness hasn’t been limited to my yoga practice. As I’ve gotten older, and especially since becoming a mom (I have a toddler, and baby number two is on the way), I have learned that I simply cannot do everything alone—and even if I could, I don’t want to any longer. Now, rather than trying to muscle through teacher trainings by myself, I co-lead with other instructors. Instead of trying to “do it all” at home, I ask my husband for help. When I’m tempted to forge ahead alone and start to feel overwhelmed, I call a friend. Leaning on other people—and hearing their guidance and views—has helped me manage my energy and opened my world.
Reaching out to others can be an incredibly helpful antidote in times of fear and uncertainty. Knowing that I have a phenomenal support network—including family, friends, a counselor, a psychiatrist, a physical therapist, and an acupuncturist—reminds me that I never needed the perfect poses or the busy class schedule or the packed retreats. I never had to do it all. I simply needed to reach out to access all the strength and abundance that existed inside and all around me.
A sequence to remind you to reach out
This practice of asymmetrical balancing poses leads up to a supported Eka Pada Bakasana (One-Legged Crow Pose) and explores how reaching out can help you cultivate strength and balance.
Dandayamana Bharmanasana (Balancing Tabletop), variation
This deviation from your typical Tabletop challenges your balance yet keeps you close to the ground for a sense of safety.
From Tabletop, inhale and bring your left arm straight ahead and your right leg straight back. Keep your pelvis stable as you reach your right leg out to the side and turn your toes forward. Bring your left arm straight out to the side like an airplane wing. Lift your waist to support your lower back. Gaze down and lengthen your neck.
Hold for 5 breaths. Return to Tabletop. Repeat on the other side.
Ardha Chaturanga Dandasana (Plank Pose), variation
This pose progresses the difficulty of the same shape you just practiced because you are working with less foundation.
Come into Plank Pose with your wrists directly under your shoulders. Take your left arm straight out to the side. Lift your right leg a few inches off the mat, then take it out to the side and turn your toes forward. Keep both hip bones facing the mat to stabilize your pelvis.
Hold for 5 breaths. Exhale to come back to Plank Pose. Repeat on the other side.
Trikonasana (Triangle Pose), variation
A strong back arm will balance your forward lean—and might remind you of the push-pull resistance you can feel when seeking help. Let your front arm win.
Stand facing the long edge of the mat in a wide stance. Turn your left toes toward the top of the mat, and pivot on your right heel to angle it in slightly. Extend your arms. Turn your left palm up. On an inhalation, reach your left arm forward and lean over your left thigh, coming partway into Triangle Pose.
Remain here for 8 breaths.
Ardha Chandrasana (Half Moon Pose), variation
Adding a deeper bend to the classic Half Moon shape creates a seesaw effect: The higher one end goes, the lower the other can go. The element of free fall builds trust in your ability to catch yourself.
Lean forward into Triangle Pose with your left hand on a block alongside your left foot. Move the block several inches ahead and in line with your pinky toe. Bend your left knee and lift your right leg into Half Moon Pose. Reach your right arm alongside your ear. Bend your left elbow to press your palm into the block. Lift your leg higher to tip your torso toward the mat.
Hold for 5 breaths. Come out of the pose by reversing the way you came into it. Repeat on the other side.
Virabhadrasana III (Warrior Pose III), variation
If your lifted leg feels heavy, put a little extra energy into it and lift it higher. Let it be a reminder that you can provide the support you need to do what you thought you could not!
Stand in Tadasana (Mountain Pose). Bring your hands together in Anjali Mudra (Prayer Position). On an exhalation, lean forward, lift your left leg straight back behind you, and come into Warrior Pose III. Lift your left leg higher as you tip your torso toward the mat. Maintain a straight line from your torso to your left foot. Gaze at a point on the floor just ahead of you.
Hold for 8 breaths. Slowly come back to standing as you lower your left leg. Repeat on the other side.
Eka Pada Bakasana (One-Legged Crow Pose), variation
Use a wall as support for your back leg so you can focus on using your core to draw your front knee as high as you can to your shoulder.
Come into Plank Pose with your heels pressing into a wall. Bend your right knee and snuggle it high onto your right arm. Press your right inner thigh and upper right arm into each other. Press your left heel into the wall.
Hold for 5 breaths. Return to Plank Pose or rest. Explore on the other side.
Eka Pada Bakasana (One-Legged Crow Pose), variation 2
Use a block to support and lift your lower leg while you focus on what it feels like to lift your other leg to even greater heights.
Place two blocks on medium height, hip-width apart. Come into Tabletop with your shins on blocks. Bend your elbows 90 degrees and lean your torso forward. Straighten your left leg behind you.
Hold for 5 breaths. Return to Tabletop and rest. Explore on the other side.
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