Fear or Flight


“Do one thing that scares you everyday.”  Eleanor Roosevelt.

I rush into class hoping there are still spots left in the back where I can hide, spread out my mat, and lay down.  I’m enjoying a few sacred moments of pre-class savasana, when Jake, my previously mentioned yoga instructor/secret therapist walks into class and says, “Today, we are going to spend the entire class working on handstands.”

F#ck, sh#t, panic, this is not what I came for; are my immediate thoughts.

“What was your immediate reaction to my statement?” Jake asks.  “Was is excitement, or was it fear?”

Wait, is Jake actually in my brain right now?

“If it was fear, then remember that every time there is fear, there is a chance to be brave.”

Yet again proving that Jake is better than therapy, and if you think that paying $20 for an hour group yoga class is too much, it is much cheaper than whatever an equivalent therapy session in lala-land costs.

“What I like about handstands, is that even once you get into the pose, you are forced to remain present the entire time,”  Jake explains.  The music starts; class begins.  And with that, I have to remind myself to not have dread, recruit all my seven chakras to being open, and see what I can gain from this handstand based class.

As we’re going through class, we flow through all the components of preparing for a handstand, and of course I’m making the parallels between this experience and running and life in general.  What scares me about doing a handstand?  It’s the lack of control I feel when I’m upside down.  Why am I afraid of having made the commitment to running a full-marathon, because what if now that I’ve told everyone I’m going to do it, I don’t finish and just drop out.  I can’t control whether or not I get injured during the process.  Why am I afraid to write a blog, because I’ve committed (to myself and no one else) to posting once a week, and what if I run out of topics after 6 months and it’s too time consuming and I just stop.

What am I really afraid of?  Who does the perfectionist in me think that she is going to disappoint?  And isn’t what drives me most crazy about my middle child that he is a perfectionist and afraid to fail?  Do I want my child to suffer from being a perfectionist?  If I don’t, then shouldn’t I set an example by not being one myself?  Why am I afraid to fail?

And is it really failing if you start something and you don’t see it all the way through?

Back to handstands, and Jake is reviewing the process of handstand preparation.  Positioning your hands correctly, bringing your legs as close to your hands so you are on your tippy toes, doing cat pose and pulling your abdominals in, looking forward between your hands, and now lifting just one leg into the air.

“Keep practicing that, ” Jake reassures.  “If that is where you are at, it is fine because there is no finish line.  Not everyone has to get their other leg up in the air.  When you are ready, your other leg will automatically take flight.”

There is no finish line, and it’s all a process and preparation anyway.  Like when I run, I practice hills and sprints to improve my speed.  I do long runs to work on my endurance.  I cross train and do yoga to stretch and balance out my other muscles so that I can continue to run.  All of this may someday lead to a completed marathon or not.  If I prepare and put in the work, which I am doing, then I am on the path to automatically take flight into that marathon.

If I read, run, think, and be open, then more blog topics will just come.  (That, or I could record Jake’s class each time and transcribe it.  That could be a motivational blog right there, but it does seem a little like cheating.  My inner nerd has never cheated on a test.)

By the end of class, my other leg does not take flight.  I don’t get into a full handstand, but my body and my mind have still gotten a full work-out.  Not completing something does not negate the work before it….energy was not wasted but created.

If I drop out of the race at mile 22, it will not negate the work and miles before it.  If I stop blogging in a couple of months, the process and the posts that I have already put out there will not lose their value.  Even ultra-marathoner Dean Karnazes agrees with Jake that, “there are no finish lines; Runs end, running doesn’t.”

What I like about Jake’s class is that much like a long run, it forces me to be vulnerable giving 100% of myself…. it is a power yoga class for the mind and body…..mentally and physically exhausting me so I’m pleading for child’s pose….It leaves me drained, yet rejuvenated.

*This yoga class was on 3/2/15.  If you like reading about Jake and the yoga/running interplay, and are new to the blog, see post Come Undone.  If you are in the LA area, you must at least once experience Jake Ferree, preferably rooftop!  Namaste.


About Paria

Runner, mother, pediatrician, blogger

17 comments on “Fear or Flight

  1. “There is no finish line, and it’s all a process and preparation anyway.” So great, Paria! There are so many mental finish lines that we all have … it is all about process and preparation. Love it!

  2. We do a lot of classes like this. But I like it because it’s all about the journey, not the destination. So what if you don’t get up into a handstand? The benefits of the prep work are more than the actual pose. I’m looking forward to my class tomorrow!

    • The “benefits of the prep work are more than the actual pose” can be applied to many things….including the marathon. Thanks Wendy!

  3. The beauty of your writing is that, when I read it, I feel like you wrote it just for me.

    After working all day today, I went for a 6 mile run and am now finally cracking open the books to study for the boards at 10pm. I wonder if I missed something at work, if I will finish my first half, and I feel destined to fail my recertification exam.

    Then, I realize I haven’t read your post. I get to spend an indulgent moment and read your blog!!! It makes me smile and feel as if I am sitting with you at a bar, and we are sharing stories over a great glass of wine.

    The beauty of our friendship? I probably will get to do just that very soon! Thank you Paria!

  4. Anyone who really knows me knows that I take flight over fear. I get excited over anything, and I’m willing to try anything. Can’t do it – so what – I’ll give it a go. So… you can imagine that I got excited just reading it was handstand-based class. I always think how lucky am I when I get to class, and that’s the focus. Actually, anything inverted I get excited about. Love being inverted! The only time I don’t care that I may have a double-chin, big smile plastered on my face.

    Speaking from experience, I can’t remember the first time I did a handstand. But I can tell you I still remember the prep, the process, the practice … if that’s what you call the flailing about. Haha. Now every time I do one, it’s empowering. A metaphor for life – when your life gets turned upside-down, you have to be in the moment. Can’t think about the past or the future. Just. Right. Now. And. Only. Now.

    And you’re right, there is no finish line. Even if you think there is a finish line, we can all come up with a new finish line. Take handstand – usually there’s one leg that likes to kick up, but then eventually, try kicking up with the other leg and it’s like you have a whole new body to negotiate. Then you finally get both legs up against the wall. Now try to move the feet away from the wall and hold for 30 seconds. Then try in the middle of the room with the split leg technique. Then try one leg reaching up and have the other join. Then try legs together going up at the same time. Then try a press-up handstand. Etc.

    And there, it’s back to prep, process, practice.

    Keep blogging! Even if the frequency decreases.

    • Christine, I think you need to come to LA for a couple of days to give me an intensive one-on-one handstand course….or I need to make a trip up to San Francisco for one !!

      • Paria, I’m in love with the shirt you’re wearing in the pic for this post! Where can I get one?!
        Thanks for sharing your beautiful thoughts and words with us!

        • Pam, it’s from the company Spiritual Gangster….they are online, but I’m not sure that shirt is available anymore…
          Thank you for reading, and letting me know that you enjoy it! That keeps me motivated to keep trying to come up with topics:)

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