The head stand.
The ‘king of the postures’!
In truth, the headstand had never been a part of my daily practice because I’d always been a little bit afraid of it. Or more accurately, I’d been more afraid of hurting my neck while doing it. I’d stood on my head in class oodles of times – under supervision, but with support, and I didn’t have the confidence to go and practise by myself outside of the class.
I’d never taken ownership of it.
I’d never taken ownership of learning how to execute it properly and therefore safely, and consequently there was an ongoing gulf because I had an irrational fear of something…that I hadn’t learned how to do!
Part ownership (part wishful thinking)
Actually, strictly speaking, I had gone part-way to taking some ownership – at one point I’d had a private lesson with my teacher solely for the purpose of learning the ins and out (the upside downs, I suppose…) of the essential inverted trio – the headstand, the shoulder stand and the plough.*
This was all great at the time…oh, but guess what? I never did the work afterwards…
I didn’t actually practise them day after day after day after I’d had the instruction. And of course, this is what it takes to embody something!
The reality of my truth was that I was slightly pretending to myself that having all the theory tucked away in my little notebook, was akin to being able to do the thing…
This part is called wishful thinking..!
Although, being slightly less harsh on myself, I believe that I was still scared to do them (and mostly notably, the headstand), on my own…what I now realise to be true was that I hadn’t embodied the practice – learnt it in my body – sufficiently during that session.
But ok – hands up! I didn’t do the work…
(That was a little pun there… ; )
*To be executed in this order to balance the masculine energy with the feminine – the headstand enhancing masculine energy and the shoulder stand and plough increasing feminine energy. Then following the trio, it’s important to counter them all with a moment or two in the fabulous fish!
Yoga’s Own Country
And then I had the fabulous opportunity to spend a fortnight in India. Now, I’m going to suggest that if you’ve got a sticking block with your yoga, then a fortnight in India is by and large the place where you’re going to be able to overcome it!
I might also suggest that if you’re looking to meet your fears, head-on, as it were, in this case… ; ) Then, doing so in a place where there’s a depth and breadth in numbers at hand to help you out, is also a good place to put yourself… (This principle applies, many-fold, throughout all of life.)
Every day, twice a day on many days, I practised my blessed headstand. I learnt mentally the correct steps to carry out to put my body in the correct position to be safe. I sought help, every day, to support me so that I didn’t topple over and injury myself – because at that juncture, I knew that I needed that little extra in order to feel supported.
(Otherwise put: I understood clearly what I needed to ‘comfortably’ push my comfort zone…and so I asked for it. I just asked for the help that I knew I still needed. )
Day after day after day I practiced and still I didn’t manage to achieve the blessed posture by myself. Day after day after day, I needed someone to physically support me. Some days, I would find the balance point once I was ‘up’… But by and large, I left India two weeks later, having not achieved my goal – of conquering the headstand.
I’d made some progress for sure during the fortnight…but the very next day, I’d be back at square one again! And unable to find the balance point. Yesterday’s accomplishments seemed about as far away as they could possibly be…
I knew the steps to keep me safe, but even with all of the practice, I still hadn’t actually embodied how to repeatedly put my body in the position where it was balanced, upside down!
Being upside down
So I came home. But not disappointed…rather with a confidence that I could now trust myself to keep myself safe, and be able to practise on my own and in my own time and space.
So I did the work. (Close enough to the wall, granted, to begin with, so that I could ‘rest’ assured that it would (I wouldn’t) come crashing down…!)
And my own time and space helped…(sometimes the compassion to realise that going at our own pace is ok, changes things.)
But what’s so challenging about the headstand, and forgive me if this is a no-brainer, but that you are actually upside down.
The real challenge in this is that our perspective of ourselves is totally and utterly and literally on its head!
Our understanding of the space that we command, and how we command it, is completely upended.
And frankly, I knew that this was my sticking point.
I didn’t have a sense of where my body was in space, and what it was doing in this flipped position, and I knew that this was the skill that I had to turn my attention to in order to learn how to find the balance point
So I figured that I had two options. (Two options, one choice, you say?! Exactly!)
One – either I could have some photos of me taken when upside down, and then in a rotational-3-D-spacial-awareness-kind-of-way transpose where I was to understand where I was supposed to be…(maybe!?) ’Was I arching my back too much?’, ‘was my bottom sticking out too much?’, ‘did I need to bring my weight further back?!? (Whatever that might even mean?!?), and then understand, theoretically, what I needed to do?
Or two – did I simply need to practise and practise and feel in my body where I needed to be in order to correct myself?
Did I actually, and with repeated persistence, need to work out in my own body – understand the feeling in myself – what I needed to do to bring myself to the balance point…?
Literally, to embody the posture.
Queen of the headstand
I figured that photos might help me – I have one of those brains that I can read a map without having to turn it around (hurrah for me); I’m quite a visual learner, so I thought that I’d be able to ‘simply’ understand the posture by seeing myself in it.
Rather though, I opted for the latter – the kinesthetic option. I opted for the one that I knew was going to be more of a challenge but arguably, more useful…by learning how to do the posture, fully within myself; ‘blind’, as it were…
I knew how to keep myself safe in the position – that box had been ticked – I just had to trust that with repeated trial and error#, at some point, I would be able to feel when I was there. And ‘there’ I arrived, upsidedown, and balanced.
Knowing what we’re capable of doing, and then being able to understand for ourselves how to realise that, are linked, but slightly separate things. We need the knowledge of what’s possible, but really, we need to find the courage within ourselves to nudge ourselves beyond our own comfort zone, in order to be able to embody our inherent capacity to unfold all that is within us. All of us.
This is wholeheartedly my take on running, and learning the optimal techniques for running, by the way…
#And believe me, there was quite a bit of trial and exasperated ‘arhhhhhhhhh!’s ; ) Anyway, it’s trial and improvement in today’s politically-paranoid lingo… ; )
No matter whether it’s about the headstand, or our running, or starting up a business, or whatever…
Theory will get you so far, and instruction is certainly super important when you’re learning a new skill (or re-learning an old one!), but the real game is to be able to embody the skill, and therefore be able to rely on that within ourselves. And that means doing the work…
But then no one can take that away from you.
Bottoms up to being able to do the headstand, hands down! ; )