Fear can drive your asana practice, or your asana practice can drive fear from your life.
Sometimes people avoid certain poses, ones in which they don’t look their best or are afraid of hurting themselves in. They focus instead on the poses they know well and never look beyond them. But staying within your comfort zone is a sure way to limit progression.
Yoga asana is training for life. Use this time to overcome fear on your mat and it will pay off in the rest of your life. Focus on aligning your breath with your movements and lining up your muscles and bones the way they are naturally designed. Begin with this foundation regularly and a pose that once seemed very difficult will soon be part of your daily practice.
Kick and float is a great pose to practice releasing fear. This pose, a preparation for handstand (adho mukha vrksasana), will allow you to meet the courage within. From here, life and asana practice evolves with ease.
The breath is an important component of all the asanas -- if there is no breath, there is no Yoga. If you stop breathing in kick and float, you won’t clear the fear and will have difficulty progressing to full handstand. You’ll also increase the risk of injury. Align your movements with your breath and you’ll find lightness in your body and a mind that allows you to float.
Here at Hale Pule, we talk about asana with three designations: essence, anchor and strength. This is a simple tool to remember the intention of the pose, where your body is grounded and the muscles you engage for proper alignment. These components will support optimal energy flow and a sustainable practice throughout your life.
Kick and float from the ground up
Inversions in general help us see life from a new perspective. Getting comfortable in kick and float will show you the path to trusting your body in balance.
1. Begin in adho mukha svanasana, downward facing dog. Be sure your hands are shoulder-width distance apart and the creases of your wrists are even and parallel to the front edge of your mat. Externally rotate your upper arm bones to bring your shoulders down your back.
2. Bring your upper body forward so your shoulders are directly above your hands. Using the strength of your hip flexors, bring your left foot forward about halfway. Bring your right leg forward about one-quarter of the way, lifting your buttocks high up into the air. Your right leg will remain extended and strong here and throughout the pose.
3. Gaze at a spot between your hands and breathe as you kick your straight right leg up as far as it will go. Release your breath and allow your leg to gently, softly come back to its starting place on the floor. Your left leg doesn’t need to do anything but come along for the ride. In the beginning, your left leg should stay low and only lift off the ground a few inches; this is a great starting point. The float is the most important component. Eventually you will be able to lift your left leg to meet the right.
Kick 10 times on this side, then move to the other. Finish with balasana, child’s pose.
Practice this arm’s length from a wall to overcome the fear of falling over. You may even find that you can kick right up into adho mukha vrksasana. If so, work toward holding for 30 breaths.
Common trouble spots
Wrist creases not even. Avoid injury on the gentle wrist joints by keeping your wrist creases even from left to right of your wrist.
Hands too close or too far apart. Place your wrists directly under your shoulders for the most stability and to keep the shoulders in their most balanced position.
Bending the leading leg. Keep the back leg fully extended as you kick up.