Asana, Balance, Foundations, Handstand, Headstand, Inversion poses, Seven years old, Sirshasana, Upside down, Yoga
Been seeing things upside down of late and not surprisingly, that provides an excellent, if completely opposite point of view.
Turn everything on its head, think of your usual foundations as being lighter, more sensitive and gentle. Conversely, consider that which you usually rely on for agility, detailed and technical operations, and how that can become your foundation.
School’s back – hooray – term two of my yoga studies course. Can’t tell you what a relief that is, in fact, term break is one of half a dozen or so things (all at once) that have really, really sucked about the last two weeks. I’ve really missed my yoga classes and five hour Saturday study sessions!
Right now in our asana intensives, we’re looking at inversions. First we studied standing poses (to build a strong foundation), then balancing poses (can’t balance til you have a good foundation) and now upside down poses (testing your foundations and balance, but totally in reverse).
Asana practice is big on developing your strengths equally… which makes much more sense studying it all slowly and methodically than it ever has in the ten or so years since I took my first yoga class.
Not to mention… inversions are actually very good for combating depression and anxiety. You could say I’ve been doing them a lot lately!
Excitingly, my sirshasana (headstand) is starting to develop very nicely. For years I wouldn’t try it, thinking it was beyond me. Then I did try, but couldn’t do it, so I stopped trying for ages. Then suddenly I could!!
It’s still something I do against the wall (not quite free-standing), and until today, I’ve been getting there by kicking up my legs instead of slowly raising them in a controlled way.
Now, using the wall as a ‘safety net’ only, I find myself able to play with the pose… test the balance point between my head and forearms… noticing exactly how I need to engage my core muscles… considering the extension of my arms and shoulders into the floor while my feet stretch skywards.
We also played around with handstands (against the wall), and more than anything else, this is something that instantly transports me back to being seven years old.
Specifically, doing handstands against the wall conjures up memories of being a small girl in a tiny asphalted courtyard at school… a group of us girls would relentlessly practice doing handstands, days, weeks and months on end.
It was a time when turning my world upside down was one of the best things in life!
Yet here I was, a grown woman of thirty-seven, with two other students and our teacher, contemplating throwing our legs up in the air while being supported by our arms.
As children, we trust our own abilities, and the solidity of a wall. But as an adult there’s such fear associated with flinging your head south and your feet northwards – can we support ourselves when the world is upside down? As grownups, our first reaction is to assume we’ll hurt ourselves, that we won’t be able to handle it.
I felt that fear in the pit of my stomach. I watched as our teacher demonstrated and I remembered what it was like to be that small child (showing off her knickers with her dress around her ears), who, even when she had a broken arm (with an old-style heavy plaster case) still managed to do handstands (don’t ask how!!).
Invoking that mini-me, I did it, left shoulder still slightly painful from my pushbike fall, but… there I was. Strong, upside down and having wiped thirty years of worry and fear away in a single fluid move!
Inversions are excellent for your digestive system and give your organs a break from the demands of gravity. They generate a sense of well-being, strength, confidence and aliveness.
More, I find they help increase my sensitivity and trust… in myself. Can I rely on my feet to find the wall (if needed)? If I fall, can I do so in a controlled and safe manner? Can I find my way to a balance point that makes me feel strong instead of fragile and vulnerable?
Yeah, apparently I can…