I’ve always had a fear of kicking up into handstand – scared that my hands (never have two palms and ten fingers seemed so small!) wouldn’t hold me; that my arm bones would turn to dust and crumble beneath my weight.
In classes when we practiced handstands, I’d half-heartedly flail my legs a few inches off the earth and then watch in admiration (and let’s be honest, a little jealousy) as others gracefully floated into the pose, like God Himself were gently nudging their legs towards the sky.
I knew all the benefits of inversions yet still I was hiding. I knew I had the core and shoulder strength to come into the pose, but something was still holding me back: the fear of failure. The fear of falling flat on my back or my face or crashing into the person next to me, creating a domino effect in the worst possible way.
So I started to practice: not only practicing kicking up into the actual pose, but exploring that delicate balance between persistent effort (Abhyasa) and non-attachment to result (Vairagya), which is a foundational principle of a yoga practice. It’s a toughie: you practice earnestly and consistently in the right direction, while simultaneously surrendering and letting the results be what they may. You try your darndest to kick up into that handstand, yet you don’t cling to the idea of getting up. You know the effort matters more than the result. Like I said, it’s a tough one.
And eventually, yes, it happened:
As I look at the picture on the right, I know it’s not perfect. I try to remember It’s not truly the outer shape of the pose that matters most, but the quality of mind that we bring to it. When I now press up into handstand, I feel the delicate balance between steadiness and ease that defines a yoga pose (asana). Even if it doesn’t look “perfect” from the outside, it is a vehicle to greater self-awareness and freedom. I’m then absolutely bursting with pride and ready to display my yoga expertise to the Instaworld!
Oh, but then. Then I watch something like this:
And my ego cowers her head in shame and despair. Then I watch something like this:
and I remember once again that it’s all about the practice. That journey of persistent effort, the Abhyasa.
Because every yoga practitioner is on his or her own journey. From the boy in his first class who is just trying to keep his shirt from riding up during Sun Salutations, to the woman who finally reaches for a blanket to sit on during her forward folds, to the girl who tries to quiet her anxious mind during Savasana.
And that’s what makes yoga great – we’re all* on this journey, together.
*The men in BOTH videos included!