When I first started my yoga journey, I was terrified of backbends. I would look around at other students in class as they would lift into full wheel and I would have to remind myself to pick my jaw up off the floor. I remember thinking: Those people must be some kind of contortionist gymnasts or something. I’ll never be able to do that.
What was I so afraid of? I wonder today, as backbends have become one of my favorite parts in practicing yoga. If you told me then that I would eventually love backbends now, I would have laughed, yeah right. In the beginning, I remember trying Ustrasana (pictured) and feeling dizzy, uncomfortable and scared. I couldn’t help but imagine my spine snapping in half like a wood pencil each time I would try the pose, plagued by my fears.
Why such a change from then to now?
I do not consider myself fearless. I do fear less though, everyday (for good reason).
Each day we rise, we wake up with a choice that often gets overlooked. We can either go the path we travel often, the one of comfort and ease, or we can try a different route. I like the challenge. That has become my favorite part of each day: stepping outside the circle I know so well to try something new, to be open. And that’s my favorite part about practicing yoga: I can take the poses I normally do, without over-trying, without over-reaching, without thought, with comfort OR I can push myself, just to see. The fear lessens: therein lies where the day’s small victory remains, waiting for us to reach for it, curiously.
Let’s settle something: curiosity never killed the cat. The curious cat does not live “dangerously,” nor is he let down by that saying meant to keep him there; he is beyond. Curiosity didn’t kill him, it made him. Curiosity is not dangerous, but it is a threat to the “per usual.” The point is not to survive life, but to strive in life. The difference lies in unbounded curiosity, which can be used as a weapon to strive. However, sometimes it can be hard to hold onto. I think we often forget this useful weapon remains in our back pocket, as we find ourselves eager to reach different points in our lives where things level so we can maintain that plateau, which is a safe place; a place curiosity disrupts. The mundane then becomes routine, but we find comfort and security in that. Relief takes over: “I can finally stop trying to push myself so hard because I finally got to ___ (this pose, this job, this marriage, this point, this place).” Yet, this place is a deceiving one, since life remains in motion even if you do not. You should not want to keep up; you should want to be one step ahead: stay curious. You don’t get there by cutting yourself short OR by looking back. It is nice to see how far you’ve come, and I believe it’s necessary at times. However, staying fixated on the steps you’ve already taken won’t keep you hungry. The half-full person only realizes he’s half-full as he looks at his plate and then slows down. The starving person does not. It isn’t a race though, it’s not a marathon either; it’s a mountain climb with no top. Be the person who strives despite the fact that there is no top.
There’s comfort to be found in the uncomfortable. I may have learned this through backbends in yoga, but it certainly translates into the bigger picture. It takes a boldness. But, to take bold steps in life does not mean you are brash. It is the bold who find their life worthy of the climb; it is the brash who only aim for a decent view. The cat may have nine lives to be curious, but you get only one, which is all the more reason to find out what limits mean and then move past the idea of them. Why should you want to live this way? It will make you stronger, but more than anything, you won’t leave any stone unturned. The words, “What if,” are the only two I have ever felt heartbroken over. “What if” is the reason I moved to San Francisco. To fear these words is to regret. Avoiding something out of fear is worse because you are resigning yourself to live with the “what if” scenario forever; resigning yourself to settle in the spot that only seems easier. This belief is a deceptive one. It is actually much harder to stop climbing because if you do stop, you’ll never know how far you could have gone. Not knowing is harder than not climbing. No comfort could ever rid you from the discomfort found in that.