I have a lot of trouble with the balancing poses in the bikram yoga series. Balancing on the balls of my feet is very hard and I can’t balance on one foot for long enough to bend the other leg in front of my body or up behind me. This has to do not only with my balance, but with my feet, ankles, and legs. I often don’t give a balancing pose my best or everything I have because I am afraid of falling or looking stupid, especially when I’m in a class with fifty other people. Other participants will do poses to the extent that they wobble or fall out of the poses, but I let my fear of failing hold me back when I come up against a pose I struggle with, especially if it involves balance that I don’t possess.
One afternoon when I was swimming, I decided to try some of the bikram yoga poses in the pool. I figured that I would do them with more ease since I was working out of gravity and I didn’t have to be so focused on holding my balance. I knew that if I fell, I would just fall over sideways into the water. I had no risk of injuring myself and I wasn’t doing the work amidst fifty other people who could see me tumble out of the pose. I tried the awkward pose, which involves balancing all of my weight on the balls of my feet. I was correct: I could do the full extent of the pose in the pool in a way I never could in the hot room. It gave me more confidence in my ability to do the pose, and I progressed on to a couple of other balancing poses that I didn’t allow myself to fail at doing in class. They were much easier in the water and showed me that I was capable of executing them. I had worked in the pool for long enough to know that whatever ability I developed in the water would eventually translate to the same – or at least similar – ability on land. If I rewired my brain correctly through swimming, it would also extend to my walk and my yoga practice. And it did.