Lessons in falling


Photo by: Lauren Nelson

I just finished reading this article about headstands and it made me think about my own relationship to the “king of asanas” (shoulderstand is supposedly the “queen”). I love doing the headstand. It allows me to focus like no other posture and I come out of it feeling lighter. Perhaps the rush of blood to the brain is the cause of that sensation, or simply being able to conquer my fear of standing upside down was enough to instill a sense of accomplishment, no matter how fleeting.

Learning to master it, however, was frustrating at best. Like the author of the article, I relied on the wall a lot in the beginning but realized it was a crutch. I moved away from the wall slowly and that’s when the falls started happening. There was one instance when I couldn’t control how I fell and landed knee first (ouch!) when I toppled over towards the direction of the wall, which was, by then, too far to break my crash landing. (Falling is natural, by the way. In “Light on Yoga”, BKS Iyengar writes: “To topple over by learning the headstand is not as terrible as we imagine.” Still, care has to be taken when attempting this posture and beginners must do it in the presence of an experienced teacher to gain the necessary confidence to do it on their own.)

I didn’t get hurt, thank goodness. My knees were okay and I was ready to get up and try again. It was then that a voice inside me said “Maybe you’re trying too hard.” It was only then that I realized I was exhausted. I had been upside down for quite some time but didn’t notice because I was too determined to get up and stay up.

So, I stopped.

And I didn’t try again for months. I went from being too aggressive to being completely defeated in a matter of seconds.

Eventually, I mustered enough courage to come up again, this time armed with more anatomical knowledge and clear-headedness that I figured was needed. This time I was able to stay up for two breaths, which increased in number as time went on. No falls. I was able to prevent a fall by coming down quickly and landing on my toes. Nice.

One breakthrough, however, came during teacher training. It was a low point: I couldn’t get my cues right, I was messing up the sequence, etc. In short, I was physically tired and frustrated with myself, which was a normal process to go through when doing something life-changing. And, when during one yoga session, we were told we could come into headstand, my feet went up despite my exhaustion. My mind was swimming in a million and one thoughts and my core was as jiggly as Jell-O. In no time, I felt my legs and torso start to shake. I was about to crash again and memories of that initial plunge in my room months back resurfaced in a heartbeat. I knew I was scared but, as soon as I realized this, another thought flashed in my overdriven mind: Let go.

And let go, I did.

I fell, but with a difference. I didn’t feel the compulsion to control the fall or stop it from happening. In the process, I landed with not as strong a thud, but a thud nonetheless.

After that, everything changed. I got my sequence right. My fear of public speaking diminished and I could teach with utmost concentration and more confidence than in the previous disastrous days.

All because I let myself fall with grace.


  1. Fantastic Post.thanks for share… awaiting more.

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