Today I dedicate this practice to my Grandmother, Catherine Frances Casey, whose father was William Joyce of Galway, Ireland. My Grandmother was one of those tough birds that lived through some very hard times, but to me she was roly poly and warm. She would call me to come sit on her lap and she would joke about her big belly being the best pillow.
When Grandma retired she decided to live alone out in the desert, giving most everything away and taking St. Francis as role model. She fed the wild animals and did crazy things like leave raw meat out for the “darlin’ coyotes” which meant that because she was partially deaf she wouldn’t hear the pack of 50 coyotes screaming and jockeying for the meat at night.
As she got older we noticed that she would get bumps and bruises and when we asked her about them she would tell us she fell down. “But Maria, I just feel myself going and I let the Holy Spirit save me, I always just bounce right back up.”
You see, my grandma wasn’t afraid of falling, she was convinced that between her rolls of fat and the Holy Spirit, she would be okay.
Of course, even though the doctors couldn’t verify it, everyone was pretty sure she was having a series of mini strokes, or something like that. Back in the 70s, there wasn’t much to do and she refused to use a walker.
This isn’t a sad story, just a story about The Fear of Falling…
Coincidentally, there was this recent article in the New York Times (3/13):
“The Centers for Disease Control reports that 1 of every 3 adults older than 65 will fall each year and in that demographic, falls are the leading cause of injury…For many seniors, the real risk and potential complication of falls can be exceeded by the morbid fear associated with going to the ground.”
“And its a circular problem–studies have shown the fear of falling actually increasing the risk of falling.”
“Again, the Center for Disease control: Many people who fall, even if they are not injured, develop a fear of falling. This fear may cause them to limit their activities, which leads to reduced mobility and loss of physical fitness, and in turn increase their actual risk of falling.”
Through martial arts I’ve learned proper falling technique and I’m a believer. I get kids & coming through the door every day telling me a story of a fall that could have been worse except it wasn’t because of their training.
Now I want to bring this knowledge to the yoga room because much of the mindful movement we do is the same as what you would learn in a martial arts class and I know lots of people, although interested in theory may be intimidated by a martial arts setting. Additionally I know a lot of people who feel the study martial arts (war) is the opposite of the study of yoga (peace) and although I could argue that all day (Arjuna on the Battlefield), I just want to get my message out.
So today we are going to look at how you can practice falling down within the context of your yoga class.
It is a movement that is best done mindfully, slowly at first and then built up over time into a habitual pattern because when you fall you will need to revert to this, there is not really time to think about it (even though time does slow down a bit).