May 7, 2013

The Fruits of Falling, Both on & off the Mat. ~ Jennifer Radhika Lung

Photo: Eric Ward

I remember the first time I fell out of the Feathered Peacock Pose, known to Sanskrit junkies as Pincha Mayurasana. 

It was a calm and beautiful sunny morning and the dew on the grass in my protected and fenced backyard was starting to evaporate due to the brilliant rays of sunlight. 

On many different occasions, I had seen countless yogis effortlessly float their way into this forearm balance. And on my own, with absolutely no one to witness the glory of me “striking the pose,” I went for it. I went for it bad. I kicked up one leg, the other followed, and the momentum—or perhaps it was the sudden gust of wind (yeah, right)—threw me flat on my back, like a pancake.

I was stunned to say the least. The brunt of the fall was physically felt in my neck, but I think the most damage was felt in my mind. Fear. Failure. The fear of falling on my back again, perhaps leading to a neck injury, which would result in paralysis and confinement to a wheelchair, and then no one would love me anymore—so on and so forth.

That’s the funny thing about fears: I could keep feeding this or any other fear, and more fears—most of which were irrational—would develop. Following this incident, I babied this pose against the wall for about two more years. My yogini sister kept telling me, “You’re ready to do Pincha without the wall.” “But…!” fear would say, so I listened and glued my mind and body to the wall.

However, as I delved into the intermediate second series of Ashtanga Yoga, I knew it would only be a matter of time before I would need to face the pose head on. On a fateful day in a yoga studio, once again alone and without witness, I confronted fear and the possibility of failure. I very carefully set up the foundation of the pose as I always had, with one exception—no wall.

I tapped into the essence and core of my being, mustered inner strength while watching the ebb and flow of my breath, and then went for it. Ta-da! I felt so free and liberated, a certain level of giddiness welled up inside me! Yes!

I fell, but did not fail.

I fell with grace and control, landing softly on my feet. 

I got up and tried again, not with the heaviness or fear of falling, but with lightness and liberation of knowing I could fall and get back up—over and over again. So the next time I have fear of falling, or perhaps even failing, both on off the mat, I know I have the inner strength to get back up and try and try again.

Repeat as necessary.


Jennifer Radhika Lung serves as a Karma yogini, vegan chef and cooking instructor at both the Sivananda Yoga Ashram in Northern California and the Sivananda Yoga Center in San Francisco. Radhika has also trained as a raw food chef at the Tree of Life resort and has been the lead vegan chef in a corporate café for three years. Her cooking style fuses the practice of Bhakti—giving light, energy, and love. She is a lifetime student of yoga and is also a certified yoga teacher.

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