I've been doing yoga for 3 or 4 years now, reluctantly and sporadically, like I do most things that are good for me.
Yoga is not about looking badass in Lululemon or being flexible; it's about patience and balance, about dropping your ego, experimenting, accepting, and reflecting on what you learned along the way without judgment.
That being said, my inability to do a handstand seriously pisses me off.
I guess that's the work -- recognizing that not getting what I want when I expect to have it can be the catalyst to self-induced misery, and then exploring new avenues of approaching that. That's what my yoga teacher would say, while I roll my eyes and count how many minutes until savasana.
Yesterday I was in an advanced class because the timing worked and I love the teacher (not because I'm in any way advanced after almost a year of no yoga) and they were working on handstands.
Of course they were. The universe is all up in my face like that lately.
I stayed only because leaving would be too obvious and because the chaos of handstands afforded me some privacy to roll around, rest, or otherwise do what I wanted while still looking like a participant. I started with everyone else though, kicking up against the wall and using it to support myself -- something that was too scary when I first started but was fun now.
And at one point as I was going upside down, confident that my heels would brush the wall behind me before I could fall, I wondered what would happen if I didn't reach for the wall -- if I just did a handstand.
The thought was absurd. If I couldn't do a handstand with years of practice, 200 hours of yoga teacher training, and a fervent desire to do one, why would I be able to do it after a year of inactivity while I played around for a half-assed minute before resting?
I moved away from the wall a little though, and I kicked up again, shoulders stacked above wrists, hips stacked above shoulders. If I looked a little bit forward right now, I would either do a handstand without touching the wall or fall flat on my face, I thought. That's usually the warning bell to stop but then I found myself thinking that I have fallen on my face so many times before, but I have never done a handstand.
It sounds small, shifting your gaze while upside down, the tiniest tilt of the skull and eyeballs, but it's always the moment that reminds gravity that I'm up to no good.
I did it though, and enjoyed several steady seconds of a straight, wall-free handstand before coming down on purpose. I was all powerful in that moment.
(I know non-yoga people and/or people who can do handstands won't get it, but trust me, this is life accomplishment stuff. I defied gravity and my self-doubt. This is what courage looks like in my mundane world.)
So it turns out that the key to handstand was to ignore my fear. The biological indicators that something could hurt had to be shut down by the psychological ones that promised the potential for awesome was greater.
Seriously, I'm a pro at falling on my face at this stage in life. I should own that as proudly as the handstand. I could teach classes. Or write a long-running blog about it.
All of my failed attempts were just preparing me for greater things. Once I accepted the opportunity for pain and embarrassment, other avenues of accomplishment opened up.
I am not 100% sure that this metaphor is going to work out in real life as well as the yoga studio, but I really hope so. Either way, I'll be doing more handstands or falling on my face with even more grace and enthusiasm and both options are an improvement.