For me one of the most frustrating things about yoga is that you can’t push or force yourself into a posture. You have to relax and let it happen or you’ll just tense up and won’t get anywhere. For me it’s even worse with balancing postures and inversions as I will also fall over the moment I start trying really hard. This has been a major barrier to my inversion progress as the longer it takes me to get my headstand, handstand and forearm stands looking anywhere decent the more frustrated I get and the less likely it is to happen!
After what seems like months of unsuccessful attempts to get into handstand or forearm stand I think (touch wood) that I might finally have worked out the trick. No trying so hard. I turned up at yoga last week frankly knackered. It had been a very long and stressful day at work and all I really wanted to do was have a little nap. I was too tired to put much thought into what I was doing and just concentrated on the instructions from my teacher. I hadn’t been the previous week so all my concentration was taken up with keeping my slightly resistant muscles from making me wobble. So, when we started on forearm stand, rather than spending time worrying that I wouldn’t be able to do it, I just had a go. We were doing partner work and I was shocked when I managed to kick my legs up high enough for my partner to catch them and, though I needed to be supported and my alignment wasn’t exactly textbook, I managed to hold the posture and fall out with something approaching poise! Though a tiny achievement for some this has been a huge breakthrough for me and I left the class in the most upbeat post yoga mood I have felt in quite some time. I suspect this was also aided by the short meditation our teacher included at the end.
The mind is a very naughty thing though and by the time this week’s class came around I’d convinced myself that it was just a fluke. So when we started to practice our handstand I wasn’t feeling too hopeful. But I got myself next to the wall and kicked up as hard as I could. I was thrilled when I kicked up high enough for my teacher to catch my legs (she’s very encouraging so I suspect that she helped me out with the last part and yanked me up a bit…..). It may have been wobbly and assisted by both the wall and my teacher supporting me but I couldn’t have been more pleased if I’d done it all by my self in the middle of the room!
I’m feeling excited about my future progress and hope that this the start of great leaps forward to come!
There is a moment towards the end of yoga class that sends fear into my heart……inversions.
Give me a shoulder stand and I am happy, relaxed and ready to unwind towards the final relaxation. Lovely. But give me a headstand and I seem to lose all ability to balance/ lift my legs/concentrate.
This is a fine example of my somewhat lazy temperament. If left to my own devises I will pick only the easy postures that I can do with little effort. I will then practice them a lot thus making them even easier and me even less likely to bother with anything else….
To try to get around this (and as a result of a plateau in my improvement) a couple of years ago I started going to a dynamic flow class for more of a challenge ( I’m never quite sure what the difference is between this and ashtanga and now I’ve been doing it for too long to ask without being embarrassed).
Much as I loved my old hatha class I have seen a huge improvement in my strength and flexibility. Almost all of my postures have improved and I can hold them for much longer. Everything, that is, except for my headstand. Previously I had studiously avoided trying headstand as I decided that it looked like something that I wouldn’t be able to do. Being aware that with such an attitude I would certainly never progress I started giving it a go (well I say that but really I didn’t have much option as everyone else in class was doing it) the first week was a slightly poor effort with my feet not even leaving the ground but I was sure that a steady improvement would follow and in a month or two I would have an awesome headstand under my belt. hmmmmmm. Nearly two years later and I’ve only just managed to get my feet off the floor and my knees balanced on my elbows and tripod headstand is a distant dream!
I am aware of course that yoga is not a competition, that there is no rush and that everyone’s body is made differently and we all have our own strengths and weaknesses. Indeed, I’m often reminding other people when they have a moment of doubt. But much as I try I don’t seem to be able to apply this to my headstand. Instead I approach it with trepidation and resignation as I try not to shoot a look around the room and catch a brand new yogi getting it right in their first class (this happens with surprising frequency ).
Finally during a particularly lovely class I realised where I was going wrong. After some weeks focus in my weekend practice at home I finally achieved a smooth transition from tree to warrior 3 and then to warrior 1 and it occurred to me that I have never (ever) even thought about working on headstand at home.
Having found where I was going wrong all I need to do now is put the new plan into practice. So this weekend I will start the process of making friends with the headstand. Wish me luck!