I started practicing yoga over 10 years ago, practicing on and off since and more consistently in the past several years. Even though I feel that I have a strong practice, I have shared that I have never felt comfortable with inversions. I think that it’s because I was never taught how to safety get into and out of headstand or handstand.
Usually in class, I would do all the prep poses for an inversion but never really try to get into the inversion itself. Actually for about 10 years, I would get about halfway up into headstand, legs curled tightly into my body forming an egg-shape and I would just hang out there, balancing on my head. But I couldn’t get into the full pose.
It’s funny. I feel like in most yoga classes today, it’s assumed that everyone knows how to get upside down. The proliferation of handstand photos and other crazy inversions on Instagram seems to reinforce the notion that everyone can do it. But I couldn’t and I felt like a missed some special class or lesson along the way.
It wasn’t until last fall that I finally was able to do an unassisted headstand. Since then, I’ve been committed to working on my inversions particularly handstands. I’ve read countless tutorials and watched so many videos. Each and every one made it look so simple and so easy to float your legs up into the air and stand on your hands.
While with headstand, I was able to logically figure out how to lift myself up, I could never do the same with handstand or even tripod headstand. Every time I tried either one of those poses, I would feel the weight of my body bearing down on me. It seemed impossible to lift that weight up off the ground and into the air.
Over the weekend, I attended a handstand workshop. For two hours, we played. What I loved was the time and attention that our instructor spent on teaching us how to engage our body and the muscles in the core, shoulders, glutes and legs so that we knew how it was supposed to feel when we actually would try to get into handstand. It was like training our muscles so that we would rely somewhat on muscle memory in order to get safety into the posture. She also spent time in the beginning listening to our fears about the pose.
My fear is a fear of kicking up into the pose. It’s not about balance or even that my arms aren’t strong enough to hold me. It’s a fear of that moment of lifting up off the ground, letting go and trusting myself and my body. It feels like you are tipping yourself so far forward that you might fall on your face and at that very moment, you kick up into the air. As a result of this fear, I often would decide in my mind beforehand that I’m not capable of kicking up into handstand. I wasn’t committed to the process or the pose so my body felt heavy instead of light.
We practiced various ways of lifting up off the ground and of feeling lightness in our bodies. I still couldn’t do it and I was beginning to feel frustrated. Finally, on my last try, I kicked up by myself into handstand. As I came down, I had the biggest grin on my face.
Exhale. Release the Fear. Engage the core. Lift up light as a feather.
I’m not quite sure what was different this time around but I think that I’m learning to use my fear in a different and more productive way. I still have a long way to go but this is progress.
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