Work It Out
Work It Out
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What Going Upside Down Taught Me About Letting Go

What Going Upside Down Taught Me About Letting Go
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I didn’t learn how to ski until I was well into my 20s. I remember feeling like an ogre as I took the escalator to the top of the bunny slope, surrounded by children under the age of five. My teenage cousins pointed and laughed while simultaneously sending Snapchats to their friends. I didn’t disagree with them — it was a sight to see.

After two hours of instruction, a collision with a tree and several butt bruises later, I’d completed my first day of snow sports. My aunt commiserated with me. “It’s much easier to learn when you’re younger, and not afraid to fall,” she said. Clearly she’d seen my hesitation every time I picked up speed and leaned backward, grimacing and letting my butt take the fall. After a dislocated kneecap, two herniated discs and countless muscle tears, it felt like the smart thing to do. To say I had a fear of falling is an understatement.

A similar panic struck me as I headed to an inversion workshop recently. What if I fall? What if I get hurt? What if I herniate a disc, or even worse, break my neck? I’ve been practicing yoga for five years, but have resisted going upside down — unless supported by a wall — and trying other poses that take me out of my comfort zone. After all, pushing myself too far has led to many of my injuries, including one that kept me away from exercise for nearly two years.

The instructor started by asking people why they were there. Everyone who spoke up had the same answer: they were afraid to fall. I looked around the room and saw the same fear I had in my eyes while skiing. I was clearly in good company.

What the instructor said next has since stuck with me. She said that falling, and failing, is imperative to learning. She also taught us that falling isn’t so bad — if you do it the right way, that is.

As we practiced headstand, I noticed the fear of falling had lifted for many. The man next to repeatedly crashed to the ground, his smile growing with each impact. I heard strangers congratulating one another after toppling onto someone else’s mat. I heard laughter.

Still hesitant, I asked the teacher to come over and talk me through exactly what she’d instructed against: how not to fall. I instantly turned toward the wall, my place of comfort, and my safety net. She promptly turned me toward the center of the room and told the entire class to listen, and watch.

She explained that in an effort to master her own headstand, she always turned to the wall. While the wall is great for gaining confidence and learning good form, it’s a crutch. Because of her reliance on the wall, it took her years to feel comfortable without it. It wasn’t until she embraced fear and embraced falling that she truly learned.

Inspired as I was, I still didn’t want to try a headstand without support — especially while in front of an audience. But I tried anyway.

I placed my forearms in a triangle on the floor, my hands intertwined and gripping each other tightly. I closed my eyes to shut out the room, and in an effort to shut off my brain, and placed the top of my head between my hands. A few deeps breaths and gentle kicks later, I was in headstand.

I’m not sure if I was shocked by my own success or if blood was rushing too quickly to my head, but I felt instantly at peace. I even started chatting to the fellow students as if I weren’t balancing upside down on my head. There wasn’t a fleck of fear pulsing through my body.

After what felt like five minutes, I slowly lowered my legs and returned to my normal, upright position. My neck wasn’t broken, there were no signs of herniated discs and I was even smiling.

I left the workshop beaming. Yes, I’d somewhat successfully tackled three inversions — handstand, forearm stand and headstand. Yes, I’d balanced on my head in the center of the room. But more importantly, I’d fallen. And each fall had made me stronger, more in tune with my body and more liberated from fear.

It made me think about how many times I’ve fallen in life — physically, personally, professionally. In every instance, I’ve gotten up. And I’ve become stronger, wiser and more resilient. It also made me think about how many times I’ve let fear get in the way of new experiences, and potentially my own happiness.

Though I’m far from fearless, I’m no longer afraid to fall. Because sometimes falling is what leads to your greatest achievements — or at the very least, some impressive air time.

The Only Fitness Resolutions You Should Make This Year

The Only Fitness Resolutions You Should Make This Year
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Every year, thousands of people embark on a journey. Of those people, a mere 10 percent are successful.

A statistic like that may conjure ideas of extreme races, vows of silence or other seemingly impossible endeavors. But it actually pertains to New Year’s resolutions.

While the New Year may be the perfect time to challenge yourself, get healthy and try something new, people often overdo it.

It’s fun to motivate yourself with lofty goals and obscure challenges, but the problem is, small changes are hard to make in the first place, and even more difficult to stick to. Sure, cutting carbs and losing 12 pounds in two weeks sounds great, but it often ends in a bread binge and more weight gained than shed. Similarly, training for a half marathon may seem like the perfect way to get into shape, but if you don’t train properly, it can end up with a life-long injury and months off your feet.

As someone who’s spent every New Year’s Day making a resolution list longer than my Christmas lists as a child, I can sympathize. A few of my resolution failures include a year of vegetarianism that ended with a heaping plate of orange chicken from Panda Express, a goal to run a half marathon that resulted in hip surgery, and an aspiration to start a novel that ended with an endless list of book names, little to no story ideas and lost inspiration.

Fortunately, I’ve learned from those failures. I know that putting too much on my plate will leave me overloaded and unsatisfied. I know that putting too much pressure on myself and being unrealistic can be dangerous.

I also know that what makes goals stick is starting small — which is why these are the only fitness resolutions I’m making this year. These just might work for you, too.

1. Diversify your routine. I could go to yoga every day and be happy but my body type requires cardio to stay lean, and even yoga doesn’t target all of your muscles (despite popular belief). If you love to run, add 5-10 minutes of pushups and ab exercises to your cool down. If you love pilates and other toning classes, go for a light jog on your days off or a spin class to up your cardio. If you love lifting weights, try a yoga class to help stretch your body and target smaller muscle groups. The key is to balance the muscles you work, and the way you work them, and to keep your body challenged.

2. Try a new workout. Changing up your routine is scientifically proven to help you get fitter, and faster. That said, finding time for something totally new can be tough — and nerve wracking. Instead of incorporating something new into your schedule once a month, try to start just by doing something new once. It’s an easy way to hit your goal and is great for your body. The best part: Doing it once will inspire you to do it again throughout the year. I also encourage going with friends. It’s a fun alternative to happy hour and looking silly in front of pals is much easier than flying solo.

3. Make small changes to your diet. When it comes to fitness, half of the battle is what you eat. Avoid the no carb craze, and instead pick small changes that are realistic. These are some of my favorite modifications: 1) Don’t eat carbs after 6 p.m., 2) drink more water, 3) cut your dessert intake in half, 4) incorporate produce into all of your meals. Once a small change becomes a habit, introduce a new one. By the end of the year, you’ll have adopted several new healthy habits.

4. Reward progress. While healthy living is certainly a trend (and a great one at that!) it doesn’t come naturally to everyone. If an exercise high isn’t enough to motivate you to get out the door and into the gym, reward yourself with something you do love. For example, if you make it to the gym four times a week, treat yourself to a burger and fries or a bottle of wine while relaxing on the couch. I like to reward myself with new workout gear and weekend trips away. It makes me feel like I’ve earned it, and it also helps me make working out a priority, and a habit.

No matter your resolutions, make sure to go easy on yourself. If you fail, try again! If you decide to ditch your resolution for good, so be it. We’re only human.

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