What Parenting and Yoga Has Taught Me about Courage

Lilly turned four last Friday: goggles was on the top of her wishlist. She tried them on in the bathtub last weekend as the rain poured down outside, and then when we went to the pool on Monday, she excitedly started jumping up and down, prepping to duck her head down beneath water. And then she did it! Just like that. She enthusiastically kept jumping and ducking up and down, over and over again.

It's not that she's fearless or reckless; it's not that there isn't some apprehension. It's just that this is something she's been wanting to do, testing the waters to do, for a very long time. Lilly, as a close friend of mine once pointed out, very much demonstrates a sense of caution and competence. The quality of standing back and observing, making judgment of what she may or may not be capable of doing; what may or may not be wise to be doing; what she truly would like to be doing or not. I'm quite impressed and invigorated by this modeling; I'd like to do the same.

So this week, I've worked on kicking up into handstand.

With the right words of a teacher, I finally managed to kick myself up into my very first handstand at the yoga studio a couple of weeks ago. I was so surprised when I finally got up there; so giddely excited! This past week, I've been practicing on kicking myself up by myself. It took quite a few kicks that first morning, but every day it got easier.

After falling off my bike on my face as a kid I've been so terribly afraid of falling on my face, but for Lilly AND for me I want to be strong. And from Lilly, I've learned a sense of playfulness. A sense of taking risks; of giving it a shot. Her wise display of caution and sensitivity as to how far she's comfortable going intrigues me; her eager desire to test and push her limits inspires me.

There are two other major balancing poses that used to freak me out that I'm now also able to do with some sense of gracefulness. The first is headstand, freestanding in the middle of the room with no support. The other is crow, a hand balance pose where you plant your hands on the floor, bending the albums to create a shelf for the knees before lifting the feet off the floor as you slide your face forward, all the while staring into the floor. I am still working on holding this pose. It has terrified me for years.

What has helped me in all these balancing poses is feeling my core; that I'm in control. Headstand and handstand are not just about flopping the feet up into the air; just as crow is not just about lifting the feet off the ground. Rather the pose is about finding that core strength that holds the entire body in shape. When I feel that strength, I know that I have what it takes; that I can do it despite my fear. It is an incredibly invigorating and empowering feeling.

In Living Your Yoga: Finding the Spiritual in Everyday Life, Judith Lasater writes this about courage:

The most important thing to know about courage is that is cradles your action even though your are afraid. ... The point is not to do something just because it is scary. The point is to choose to do what is possible in the face of fear.

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