This morning, after four years of diligent effort, one of my most dedicated private students went into headstand and held it! I recognized the exhilaration on his face as he realized he was upside down, unsupported and still okay, followed immediately by the instinct to relax into the experience. Once he came down we celebrated with a fist pound.
I remember the first time I really did headstand on my own. Just like my client, once I found my balance, something inside me said, “Just hold steady and relax.” When I came back down I looked around the room as if everyone had just been holding their applause until I finished. No one seemed to notice, but I felt different. I had a new way of being in the world.
In the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali writes wisely, that yoga should be practiced with great dedication over a long period of time and that a yoga posture should be approached with sthira and sukham, steadiness and ease. If we set up the proper steady foundation and we relax into the moment, eventually we can experience the aliveness that arises when we do something that we once thought was impossible. Inversions are an opportunity to turn our fixed notions about who we are upside down. They help us let go of self-imposed limitations, and from that new perspective, anything is possible.
Many times when a student leaves class after an inversion practice he or she will say, “This is the first time I’ve gotten up into handstand. I never thought I could do that and I did!” Once we know we can be upside down and be okay, we walk a little taller. We begin to see the world in a slightly different way.
If you would like to learn how to find sthira and sukham even when you’re upside down, please join me this Saturday at Yoga Works Soho for Off The Wall: An Inversion Workshop. There are just a few spaces left, CLICK HERE to register.