“Rising Up, Back on Your Feet”: Why Failure Isn’t Loss

It’s important to consult your physician or physical therapist before beginning any new physical activity or exercises and always listen to your body and respect the warnings you hear. 

Failure is the new success.

Each step back, every error, all our mistakes, a pathway to enhanced performance. It’s all about how we name it, or as Pema Chödrön says, “The way we label things is the way they will appear to us.” Experts have long spoken of our need of 10,000 repetitions to achieve mastery. Instead of all the self-loathing and negativity we associate with loss, it’s time to reframe for resilience. We are the phoenix rising from the ashes, Rocky getting up off the mat. Maya Angelou writes, “You may tread me in the very dirt/But still, like dust, I’ll rise.” 

The only mistakes are the ones we don’t learn from.

Right now, Earth is speaking in a viral tongue. Our call is back to the ground, a bow to that which sustains and gives us life.

Child’s Pose

Child’s pose can be the perfect posture to cultivate the comfort and support so many of us yearn for at this time. Physically, this pose can aid in digestion as well as lengthen the spine and back hips, while stretching shoulders, knees and ankles. As with any joint impairments, this pose could be difficult, possibly painful and could cause more harm than good. So, listen to the messages your body sends you, especially in your ankles, knees and back and be compassionate to your needs. 

Starting on hands and knees, shift the hips back towards the heels, lowering the heart and head to the earth. Arms can be extended out front, but avoid any pinching or sharp pain in any of your joints. Please, be generous with props in order to support yourself in a way that allows you to experience release—into this pose to find solace, and within to find the peace that comes with introspection. Take 5-7 rounds of breath, connect to intention, and forgive yourself for being human. And then rise. 

Broken Toe Pose

But remember, we don’t cross thresholds all at once. Consider broken toe pose. Despite its scary name, broken toe pose can help improve mobility throughout all toes and flexibility of the plantar fascia in order to return that spring in your step. Please be warned, this pose can be intense: the goal is NOT to break your toes, so modify, move slowly, and be gentle to yourself.  

Sitting up on your knees, try to get all five toes pointing forward on the mat or towards your knees. You can use your hands to manually manipulate the toes back and give them space from each other, but DO NOT force the toes into painful ranges. As tolerated, sit back towards your heels. If the intensity causes your breath to be altered, you can use bolsters and/or pillows under the hips to take off some of the weight coming down on the toes. Stay with this pose through several slow gradual breaths while maintaining a neutral spine. You may progress to holding for up to two minutes or longer, if desired.  A counter pose that gives great relief from broken toe would be to come into tabletop position (hands and knees) and slap out the tops of your feet on the mat a few times. Be sure to give your feet some tender love after going through the intensity of this pose.

Fierce/Chair Pose

For strengthening the entire lower extremity kinetic chain, fierce/chair pose can bring on power and focus. The subtle locks throughout hip and core muscles while engaging eccentric strength throughout the thighs will allow anyone to rise from their falls with a sense of confidence, integrity and stability. Seek sensation and discover the awareness of fierceness within to handle it all, to push on and never give up. Fierce pose can allow us stand confident knowing that one is able to rise up, even when the strongest forces are pulling us down.

Stand with feet hip distance apart and focus on maintaining your neutral spine. Gradually begin to lower your bottom back as if you were going to sit into a chair. Be sure to focus on keeping the upper thigh bones steady as the knees track in the same direction as the toes. As you exhale draw the core muscles in to stabilize the spine and lift the arms up overhead without losing the neutral of the spine. Lower your arms if you feel your spine come out of alignment. Hold this pose for 3-5 breaths. If you’d like to challenge yourself, lower deeper or hold for longer durations, but if you have lost your breath or your awareness, return, rest briefly, and reset.

Root down. Rise up to stand. Find your mountain. Discover your strength. Unleash your potential.

We can all be grateful for the failures in life because it is from these mistakes that we have the opportunity to rise again, to try again, to get back up on our feet, and spring forward into better versions of ourselves. As long as we learn from these failures, we can improve our confidence with each stride. Our mistakes and failures do not define us. It’s our response that counts.  

By: Dr. Meghan Nelson is a licensed physical therapist and professional yoga therapist with a passion for using yoga as medicine for optimal health, injury prevention, and overall health and wellness. Meghan is co-owner of Lumin Therapy, which provides integrative healing of the mind, body, and spirit through the practice of physical therapy, medical therapeutic yoga, and mindfulness.

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