When Balance Means Falling Over In Public

Kate Hendricks

I’ve always had trouble in balance poses. To be honest, I'm not terribly balanced in general – I was a Marine Corps Officer for years and have been accused of displaying control-freak tendencies many a time. One of the main reasons I'm a wobbler became clear to me last month – I’ve never grasped the concept of engagement with the ground as muscles hug in towards my bones all while relaxing about the notion of falling over. I love to try to muscle through things by sheer force of will. Non-attachment? Hah.

I always thought I was doomed to stink at tree pose or teeter in Lord of the Dance. I had trouble finding a focal point, hated quieting my mind while fighting to balance and wiggling my ankle to try to stay steady. I always felt like it was such a noticeable and public failure, that everyone in yoga class saw me moving and falling. My ego was all up in my way.

I think my problem was in the forcing.

Last year, I lost the love of my life to drugs and alcohol. I left our friendship and our home a broken version of myself, leaving him to figure his addictions out on his own. I was afraid for myself and not at all sure what might become of him in the end. The last year was full of denial, mourning, guilt, shame, hiding tears from everyone else...

Life has forced me to slow down and really think about where I am placing each step. I have a new curiosity about my feelings and my interactions with others. On the yoga mat, this has manifested itself in my balance poses. I love how my body can express concepts well before I can ever articulate them. Focusing on rebounding and connecting with the ground underneath a carefully-placed foot became a metaphor; there really is always ground underneath us, even when we feel like it has irrevocably shifted beneath our feet.

I was able to practice tree pose for the first time this month in the light, liberating manner in which I always imagined it is meant to be practiced. Feeling strong and steady in the pose could not have come at a better time for me, and I have been adding it to every class since I learned to do it with joy. I can stand up on my own, I can find stability where none seems to exist...What a difference that lightness makes!!! And if I fall over a bit, that is fun, too!

I feel a lot more balanced when I am ok with falling over in front of people.