Upside Down

It’s safe to say that, thanks to Spotify, we listen to a c.r.a.p.ton of music in our house and the Littles and I really enjoy having pretty much any song right at our fingertips. Yesterday, Miss Raegan got sick (boooooo!), and to keep her contained and entertained, I pulled up our beloved Curious George on the good old Spotify. The first song on that soundtrack happens to be “Upside Down” (we know it well in our house) and it turned out to be the perfect fit for the yoga workshop I took last night in terms of both movement and music (since it totally came on mid-way through the event).

In a beautiful bit of worlds coming together, avani worked it out so that one of my(our) teachers from Omaha came to do a Building Blocks of Handstand Workshop with us last night. I’ve known about it on our schedule for weeks, but I did not know right away that Suzanne would be teaching us handstands. Remember some of my freak outs from this summer? Pretty much anything that involves my wrists or inverting gets me going, so let’s just say I was a wee bit Oh. Really? Handstands?! when I discovered what she would be working on with the Hastings yogis. But I love my studio and I love my Lotus teachers, so of course I was still game and ready to give it a whirl even though I have serious trust issues when it comes to asanas such as this.

Who knows what in the mental/emotional world I’m not trusting in these poses, (I’m sure there are multiple connections there), but physically, I get so freaked out when I am asked to balance in any way because I am terrified of falling. Well, not any way. I’m fine with balance poses when I’m upright. But you ask me to invert and balance on my hands? I start to sweat. And I know this sweat-inducing anxiety stems from my back. Chronic back pain will do that to a person, ya know? I just don’t look at risky (to me, anyway) poses the same way others might. My motivation or drive to get upside down is skewed because I have a very real fear of injury should I come out of the pose incorrectly (which is so beyond likely when you are learning this kind of stuff). Do I want to learn more advanced poses and challenge myself (any other Doane folks remember that lovely catchphrase?)? Absolutely. Do I want to learn how to take my ego out of the equation so I can accept that inverting and arm balances may or may not come in this lifetime? Even more so than absolutely.

As for the workshop, things went really well. Suzanne’s approach was spot on to both guide and challenge us but to also help us see that whether or not we got up in a handstand didn’t really matter. What mattered was the trying. The being open and vulnerable. The climbing the mountain and “looking over the cliff” as that is often the scariest part. [For the record: the scariest part of last night was our prep work that involved cartwheeling across the studio. I don’t know about any of you, but it’s been a decade or two since I’ve cartwheeled, much less than in a procession line or on display in front of my peers/students/friends/strangers/husband. Terrifying! And my first two attempts were not pretty – not at all. Suzanne observed that I was dropping my top hip on my way over and I don’t doubt it because we hold a c.r.a.p.ton of shtuff in our hips and opening up/trusting that activity? Whoosah is all I can say. Oddly enough, when I attempted to let my left side lead (which is where I feel the most of my back pain and have the wonky wrist), I did much better. I don’t know if I followed the hand/hand/foot/foot thing better at that point or kept my hips engaged or what, but I pulled off at least one decent-ish cartwheel, so there you go – a baby step up the mountain on my way to inverting and going up on my hands, and after all, this life is forever a series of such steps.]

Post-cartwheels, the rest of the workshop time flew by in an instant. We worked through our building blocks which included our hippy (hippie? 😉 ) hops and experimenting with lifting and shifting while on our hands. See those red legs? Those are mine trying to catch some air on the hops which were intense, although not quite cartwheel-intense (which might just be a new catchphrase for me when faced with tests in life), thankfully.

And when we later broke into groups of three to give the handstand a go? Well, that was more cartwheel-esq crazy, but there was a moment – like three seconds – where I got up (with a support on one leg from a spotter) and I felt the energy line drawing up through my core and it was pure awesomesauce. Granted, when I tried again, I was did not have hips above shoulders and was therefore at a diagonal, but I think there might have been a point in that first attempt where I actually sort of kind of did it. Or at least I took another baby step in the right direction, which is pretty awesome.

In true yoga (and anyone related to my YTT experience) form, however, last night was not without some emotional moments. We began the night with a little group huddle/chat in which Suzanne talked to us about working our way up the mountain and being vulnerable and sheesh, if that didn’t make little tears spring into my eyes. And when we were asked to close our eyes and think of a time in which we were open and vulnerable in the past? Well, that got me, too, because I instantly flew back to the night in January when I first asked my avani girls about where to go for teacher training and look at what has transpired since then! Taking the risks and opening yourself up to challenge (and possibly hurt) – in whatever form it takes – can bring about such great growth and change. Will that openness someday bring a literal change of perspective in my life that allows me to channel George and “turn the whole thing upside down” to see the world anew? Well, “who’s to say what’s impossible?!” A year ago I wasn’t even practicing yoga much less thinking about teaching it, but here I am as a direct result of opening up and trying something new. There really is no telling what may come next. A hand stand or one of my other arm balance goals? Why not?!


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