Relaxing your head

After reaching my recent rolling impasse, and thereby dropping into a vast chasm of existential angst and disillusionment getting a bit messed up in the head, it was evident that a return visit to the pool was called for. This time, we journeyed down to Garnock pool for the first time in ages. We’d already been down to Kilbirnie Loch a couple of weeks ago to reacquaint ourselves with the Garnock club and it was great to catch up with everyone there. It was, as they say, a sort of homecoming.

So I went along to the pool on Friday night with very few expectations. It was interesting to note how much more pleasant travelling over on to the ferry and driving down to Kilbirnie became when I wasn’t fretting over irrational fears of failure, drowning etc. Perhaps this attitude could be applied a little more broadly.

Under the critical eye of Euan, I demonstrated my progress (ha) in rolling. Of course, my first attempt failed and I relaxed into the acceptance that I was, indeed, back at square one. There was, therefore, no-one more surprised than I was when my second attempt resulted in success. This time, I refrained from leaping into wild displays of ecstatic triumphalism (or at least breaking into a happy dance), recalling how far my ego had come crashing down the last time that happened. Instead, I allowed myself some contentment in the knowledge that my learnings hadn’t gone completely to waste after all. Being that it seems that I can now roll 2 different kinds of river kayak, perhaps there is some renewed and realistic hope for learning to roll my sea kayak.

Towards the end of our practice session, Euan observed my roll again and suggested that I should relax my head. Anyone learning rolling will be well familiar with the importance of head positioning. As the head is so heavy, it is better to allow the water to support it before bringing it up last, thus lessening the “burden” on your roll. Of course, this is quite counter-intuitive as every novice feels an urgent need to raise their head the heck out of the water first. After working to overcome that particular instinct, my own tendency has been to forget about my head altogether (not difficult), or to focus on it too much and somehow hinder my roll all the more. However, Euan’s employment of the code word, “relax”, tapped right into my yoga learnings and the resultant roll felt almost effortless by comparison. Am on to something now.

How often I’ve been in a challenging yoga asana, only to hear my teacher‘s guidance to bring awareness to where there is resistance and to let it go. Naturally, this guidance can apply to kayaking and beyond. Just about everything in life gets a whole lot easier when you learn to relax and let go.

Leave a Reply