I love gravity. Not the kind some of my professors had in college, where every word they uttered landed like an anvil on my shoulders till I felt moored to my desk like someone stuck in a drill press. I’m talking about that wonderful law that nobody seems to understand but everyone is affected by. I’m this little speck of dust somehow attached to a giant ball whirling at about 1000 mph as it careens in a 602 million mile orbit around the sun in a year. I’m bad at math, but that seemed to work out to almost 69,000 mph. Not only do my feet (usually) stay connected to the earth, there are many times when gravity likes to play tricks on me so that at the most inopportune times I’ll find my butt or my face connected to the earth as well. Whether it’s yanking a resistant weed, missing the last step in a flight of stairs (or worse, the first step), sliding on some spilled water in the kitchen, or tripping over those invisible sidewalk cracks, I’ve made an art of the crash landing.
Recent studies have shown that fear of falling actually increases falls. Neuroscience Research Australia tracked 500 Sydney residents whose average age was 78. Through various tests, they were divided into groups based on their fear of falling. After following theim for a year, they found that the group that feared falling….fell. Interestingly, the study found another liability in the anxious group. According to Stephen Lord, a member of the research team, “These anxious people were more likely to be depressed, to have restricted their activities, and it looks as though these factors feed on each other. People who are fearful do less, and that leads to deconditioning, to a loss of strength and balance,” he explained. Increasingly phobic about falling, sometimes unwilling to leave their homes, “they become preoccupied with the possibility. They catastrophize.”
Dr. Moshe Feldenkrais once defined maturity as not being afraid of falling. He didn’t say you should prevent falls, or avoid falls or protect yourself from falling. He understood that the mysterious forces of gravity want you hugging the carpet. Feldenkrais was a black belt in Judo, and used that knowledge to develop ways for everyone to learn how to recover from falling. The Feldenkrais Method teaches you not only how to fall well, but how to get back up. Sure nobody wants to fall, but fear of falling is one of the greatest contributors to injuries as the result of falling. Instead of crash landing and breaking bones, would it not be better to know, in the instant of descent, that your body knows how to land softly and that you have options for recovery?
And if you’re not afraid to fall, maybe other kinds of falls may not seem so perilous: falling behind, falling out of favor, falling short, even falling in love. And is it coincidence that there is only one letter different between falling and failing?