My whole life I’ve had issues with being upside-down. I’m generally okay if I’m hanging from something, like monkey bars or silks, but just inverting on the ground freaked me out. I never thought I’d get to the point where I could enjoy being upside-down, let alone accomplish it without breaking my neck.
But, (typical of this year) I have been thrust into more than one yoga challenge recently that forced me to attempt a headstand. My first several days of this were miserable. I kept flipping over, twisting my back, landing on my arms in an terribly unhappy way… just generally being a sweaty, sore failure.
Then, one day, I tried something new.
See, I had begun by trying to hop my legs up and bring my knees to my chest. This was obviously not working, and in a glorious burst of inspiration, I tried one night to raise my legs while keeping them perfectly straight. This is what happened.
Well, that was unexpected. Excited by my surprise success, I spent several more hours trying to accomplish that lovely perfectly-straight-and-graceful-looking goal. I got a lot closer, but I couldn’t keep my legs up for very long, and if I got close to making a 90 degree angle with myself and the floor, I’d flip over. I was obviously missing a step. Luckily for me, I follow several fantastic yogis on Instagram, and a few had followed me back. I started getting advice on my little videos. Some was as simple as “try a different hand position” and others suggested I tighten my core muscles more. Little by little, I was getting stronger and sturdier.
Then one evening, I decided to try something different. I couldn’t believe I could do the splits upside-down! Starting with my legs apart rather than together gave me a much better balance. But more importantly, it trained me to bend my back. Now, ideally, a bent back (or “banana back”) is not a good thing to have when inverting. But as I pressed up or hopped up into the splits, I found I would succeed far more often if I let my back bend a bit and straightened after I was steady.
In short, I began to listen to my body. I slowed down, and started focusing on my arms – how they felt on the floor, how the pressure changed just a tiny bit when I leaned this way or that. I started becoming much more aware of the position of my back and hips, and being able to tell what my angle looked like.
I achieved something I thought was out of my reach. But even better, I learned some fantastic lessons about tackling daunting goals. I now know, from first-hand experience:
- not to limit myself out of fear,
- that one breakthrough is sometimes all it takes to find my groove,
- that the advice of those more experienced than myself can be invaluable,
- to listen closely to myself, to be aware,
- and to take lots of videos, because being able to track my progress over time is the best feeling ever!
Look out, forearm stand… I’m coming for you!