I finally did it! After months of practice and preparation, I finally managed to execute a full headstand!
OK, I could only hold it for a few seconds, but this was HUGE for me. I’ve had to overcome my fear of falling as well as the “story” I told myself about how I “can’t” balance upside down.
Yoga = Union
Yoga demands a total IN the body awareness; in fact the word yoga means union — body, mind, soul. I find that anytime I am feeling out of sorts — physically, mentally, or emotionally — that 10 to 15 minutes of moving meditation (which is what yoga is, essentially) helps me recalibrate and get back in touch with my body and my mood.
To deepen my practice, I’ve studied different poses (asanas) and every few months try to add a new form or pose to my practice. I’ve attempted — and mastered — just about every asana I’ve attempted EXCEPT in the category of Inversions. Inversions are those poses that turn the body upside down. While I mastered a shoulder stand (feet straight up in the air), I have struggled with everything else.
At the beginning of 2009 I set as a goal to master two new inversions this year. I was determined. (several of my friends and colleagues, upon hearing this goal, just rolled their eyes. I push on, regardless!)
Where I’m Going ≠ Where I Am
Then I attended a class where the woman next to me moved into several inversions with such grace and power that I was in awe. After the class I asked her for a moment of assistance, and what she taught me completely changed my conversation.
I’d been so focused on the pose itself — the headstand, the handstand — that I was hardly paying any attention to the movement INTO the pose. She showed me how to refocus my attention from where was going to where I am — to where my body is in the process of moving overhead. This shifted my attention from my feet (trying to get them to a point six feet up the wall) to my core, where all the heavy lifting occurs. When I brought myself back into my core, my middle, instead of “out there, ” I was able to easily move into headstand. How cool!
The Key = Core Strength
This experience got me thinking about Happiness and the critical role of the core in creating and maintaining emotional stability. When the focus of happiness is “out there,” one can be feeling OK about life during steady times. But when life comes along and turns things upside down, it’s easy to fall down over and again.
Just as the physical core must be strong to hold a difficult yoga pose, our emotional core must be strong in order to hold steady when it gets turned in unusual ways.
I cannot emphasize enough the importance of practice, practice, practice in yoga. At least four or five times a week I spend a few minutes moving my body through the basics (called Sun Salutations) to stretch and strengthen my arms, legs, core, and breath.
So too, one must practice, practice, practice the ability to hold calm in the body, the ability to bring oneself back to the center (the core) by attending to posture and a deep breath or two. The strength we create thru practice shows up in times of challenge as resilience.
So keep working on that Happy Body of yours. Stand tall, breathe deeply, smile often. And the next time life turns you upside down, move into that pose with grace and know that you have the capacity to stand on your head AND be happy!
Happiness is standing on my head!