Could You Laugh Away a Fear?

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by Emily Listfield
yoga crow pose image

I have had a lifelong fear of somersaults.

In gym I was a side flopper, deliberately tumbling to the left or right to avoid going over.

And so the crow—a yoga pose in which you crouch down, place your hands on the floor, lean forward, then balance both knees on the backs of your upper arms—elicits my terror of toppling onto my head. I tried a few times in yoga class, but before my feet even left the ground I’d resort to the pre-emptive side flop, controlling the fall rather than risking the move.

Enter Gwen Lawrence, yoga teacher to such luminaries as New York Yankee Alex Rodriguez and former U.N. secretary-general Kofi Annan. “Everything we do is ruled by two emotions: love and fear,” she tells me. “It takes 10 times as much energy to live and work from fear.”

Hands on the mat, I bend my arms to 90 degrees as Lawrence shows me, keeping them close to my body. Rocking back and forth, I finally balance one knee on one arm. Slowly, I lift the other leg—and fall instantly.

But at least I didn’t give up before I tried. A new emotion takes over: determination. I get one knee up, and then I kick off with the other foot.

Lawrence steadies me, then lets go. For five miraculous seconds I hover in crow, delighted and weightless and free, before gravity takes hold. This time I am smiling as I fall.

Emily Listfield is the author of the novel Best Intentions.

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Illustration courtesy of Markus Gann/

Originally published in the June 2013 issue

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