Written in November 2013
I’ve noticed in recent yoga blogs, journals and articles that there is a real focus on asana’s such as headstands, handstands and arm balances, and agree with a recent article written by Kara-Leah Grant (Musings from the Mat: Are we Drowning Under a Deluge of Perfect Yoga Images) that ‘taking and sharing photos of oneself or others in challenging yoga postures can be inspiring, and uplifting but to some they are intimidating and inaccessible’.
One thing that does spring to mind when I personally think of headstands and handstands is weakness – not about those who can do them but in reflecting on what I believe of myself when attempting these postures. I’ve not been able to successfully execute either, or any of their variations unassisted to date and am mindful of the negative associations my brain has with those postures each time I begin my practice. In fact I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve fallen out of at least one (if not many) unassisted headstands badly and knew that if I didn’t try an assisted one immediately after it would only worsen my inner-belief. So instantly I took the challenge, bruised coccyx and all and attempted a second, slightly better, assisted headstand.
During my recent 200hr Yoga Teacher Training in Spain (Sally Parkes Yoga Teacher Training), I met an incredible bunch of fellow yogis looking to take the next step and a leap of faith into the ‘Yogic World’. Like any Yoga Teacher Training, the two week intensive in Spain gave us the opportunity to increase our knowledge of asana practice, yoga philosophy & history and the 8 limbs of yoga as well as learn a lot about the different experiences we’ve all had through our yoga adventures and misadventures, develop lifelong friendships and understand more about ourselves as individuals in this divine universe.
There is one gorgeous yogi in particular that stands out in my mind from my teacher training course because I was absolutely amazed at the grace and ease that she was able to move into a headstand and all of its variations and didn’t understand why I just couldn’t find the strength and balance to do so myself (not to compare myself but just because she made it look so easy!). It was awe inspiring.
After completing our teacher training I caught up with this gorgeous new friend and learnt that although she is the master of headstands and all of the variations possible now, she too struggled for a long time with them and after years of dedicated practice, strength and focus, overnight she was able to ‘just do them’.
This dedication and poise to focus herself on achieving her goal has inspired me more than I have been by any yogi before, as although I knew that there were certain postures that would be my 5 or 10 year projects (like the tortoise I am in some things) I always had a silly doubt in my mind that maybe, just maybe, I would never achieve such a feat.
Upon reflecting on the discussions and experiences I shared during and after my training with regards to headstands and various other asana’s I began thinking about the fable of the Hare and the Tortoise (Aesop), in that we should not compare ourselves to others and that yoga (or life in general) isn’t a race – when our minds and our bodies are ready for the next challenge (so long as we continually seek those challenges) we will succeed and overcome our inner fears.
Like many other yoga practitioners I have really struggled with my inner confidence when watching videos of yogi’s around the world move into a headstand with ease and constantly remind myself that it’s not a race, and that I too will be able to get there one day.
Perhaps when I am ready, both mentally and physically, I will glide into a headstand or even a handstand with ease. But for now, I will simply document my journey towards the headstand and handstands to show those who are less confident than others, like me, that it can be done and we should all be looking to those inspirational friends around us to help guide us in the right direction and spur us on to reach any goals we set for ourselves!