If you fall out, get back in

I am astounded that January has already come and gone. How did that happen?

January brought with it many things including a return to a consistent Bikram yoga practice after some time away. I am so happy to be back in the warm, wet fold of the yoga room – particularly given the frigid, snowy, sleety, and generally challenging winter we are experiencing right now. The hot room is a blessed respite that feels to me like a mini-vacation. I am sometimes tempted to show up with a beach chair, my trusty Amazon Kindle and an icy pitcher of margaritas. :)

If you practice Bikram yoga for any amount of time, there are certain oft-used phrases with which you become familiar. One of those phrases is “if you fall out, get back in”. It’s one of my favorites. Basically it means that if you fall out of a posture for whatever reason, you should try again. Even if its only for a second. This is how you incrementally build your strength and flexibility. Our teachers are constantly reminding us of this simple but important lesson. Try it, and if you fail, try again. Get back in. Sometimes we are so fixated on the end goal – some “perfect” expression of the pose – that we forget that the only way we might actually get there is to keep trying, falling out and getting back in.

Even more important is the fact that in order to fall out you have to actually attempt the posture.

During the classes I took over the past few days I began to celebrate each time I fell. I welcomed every moment when I could no longer hold a posture because I couldn’t breathe, or a muscle gave out or I lost my balance, or my mind just decided it hurt too much. I welcomed the moments when I staggered, trembled, ached, swayed, crumpled and collapsed.

I welcomed these moments of failure because I recognized what they meant. They meant I was trying. I was attempting the postures in the best way I could in each and every single moment and by doing so I was building my practice. My strength. My flexibilty. My ability to endure. I was laying the foundation for my perfect expression of the postures.  I knew that I always had the option of getting back in.

I was talking to a dear friend after class who is grappling with the ending of a long-term relationship and she described this ending to me as a failure.

“I have failed”,  she said.

In so many ways in our lives, we are holding on to a vision of a “perfect” expression of some areas of our lives that we lose sight of the fact that the only way to ever arrive there is by trying, falling out and getting back in. We see ourselves as holding the postures of perfect spouse, parent, employee, woman, man – any number of roles – and when we fall out of these postures we are convinced we have failed and that the failure is irrevocable.

We have – but I think thats a great thing. It means we have tried. We may have to try again. And again. Repeatedly. And we will fail and fall and lose our balance many more times before all is said and done.

Failure in any respect means that you showed up, and did the best your were capable of.  Yes, you may have fallen out, but you can always get back in. Sometimes the best we we are capable of looks and feels really awful but it is all that we can accomplish in that moment. It is what it is. Had we been capable of more we would surely have given it.  So we are left with a choice. Do we give up altogether or do we get back in?

Bikram yoga has taught me the importance of  getting back in. There are days when I show up to the yoga studio feeling beyond awful. When I force my way through class with a lousy attitude, a reluctant body and a heavy spirit. My body is a clumsy weight that I begrudgingly fling around for 90 minutes while I feel, sad, angry or resentful. It may not be the best version of me that shows up, but apparently its the best that I am capable of that day.  No matter the circumstance, I do my best. The next day I come back to class.

I get back in.

I couldn’t argue with my friend when she said that she had failed. Not only did I  not want to give her some sugary, greeting card platitude, how could I argue with the  unarguable fact that this relationship had failed.  Yes, I told her, your relationship has failed. You have failed and he has failed, but  the good news is that means you tried. You both did the best that you were capable of in each and every moment of your time together. It might not have always looked pretty, but it was the best you could do with what you knew at the time.  The question now is will you you get back in?

Another oft-used phrase I hear in the yoga studio is that it is not called yoga perfect, but yoga practice. To practice is to try, fall and get back in.

Life is not about perfection – it is about practice. This is the essence of living. We are given the gift of always having the opportunity of getting back in when we fall, stumble and fail.  Failure has become a dirty word to many of us but I’m convinced that it is in fact an awesome word that carries with it the gift of  life! Failing means we are trying. It means we are growing, evolving, learning! It means we have alive for goodness sake. I don’t know any person who shows up in this life as an adult who is fully-formed, fully-evolved and fully-enlightened. Do you? I can only conclude that this is because the gift of our lives is the the journey. It is this which is our lives.

This to me is the sublime passage.

It is the showing up, the trying, the falling and the getting back in. We need to stop being so hard on ourselves and recognize all the ways in which we keep getting back in. Each day we get up and try again – whether it be in our relationships, in our work, in our health – we are getting back in. As we do so we are laying the foundation for the perfect expression of our own unique lives.

So I urge you to be kind to yourselves. Embrace your failing and your falling. Know that it means that you are showing up and giving the best you can, when you can. Above all know that there is always an opportunity to get back in.

  • http://www.brokedownartist.blogspot.com Emily

    Wow- what a beautiful piece! This comes at a very vulnerable time for me; it’s good to hear that life is practice, not perfect. Though logically I should know this, it seems I’ve got that perfectionistic tendency always sitting on my shoulders. I will go through this week (this life, really) remembering this post. Thank you!

  • Anonymous

    Hey Emily… I feel like you – that logically I should know that life doesn’t have to be perfect, but somehow my brain doesn’t always make this connection. I guess that’s why the reminders are so important. The perfectionist tendency means that you’re a person who strives for excellence- which I think is a wonderful thing. However it can be a double-edged sword which we sometimes turn on ourselves.

    I’m glad if this post helped you. Thanks for reading and commenting and remember to be gentle with yourself!

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