Git it girl!

Bright and early this morning I went to a yoga class that I really enjoy (a moderately intense vinyasa session) taught by an instructor that I appreciate, respect, and trust.  After the teacher led us through a few minutes of warm-up poses, she had us work on our handstand.  Here’s what that looks like for me:

  • Put both hands on the ground.  (Easy)
  • Step both feet back so that my body forms a moderate upside-down “V”. (Easy)
  • Lift my right foot straight up in the air, as high as it can go. (Still pretty easy)
  • Keeping my arms straight (this took some work over the course of several weeks, but is now manageable), hop the left foot off the floor (doable), and kick it up to meet the right foot. (This last part is moderately challenging; I can get it about 75% of the time)
  • Now, the tricky part: Keep both feet in the air, above the hips, legs and arms straight and strong.  And don’t fall over.  (Really, really, really hard)

I spent about three minutes kicking, having my feet tap together for a split second, and then having my heavy left leg quickly return to the floor.  Kick, tap, return.  Kick, tap, return.  Kick, tap, almost-feel-like-I-might-be-able-to-keep-both-feet-up-oh-crap return.  At the end of this practice session (again, it was just three minutes long) I was sweaty and exhausted.  And feeling a little deflated.

But, whatever.  The class went on, I got my butt kicked (in a good way), and I delighted in the practice.  Good stuff.

Okay, so we get to the last 10 minutes of class.  This instructor ends each of her sessions with “play time” – which means each person can practice whatever pose(s) s/he feels like, and the teacher will float around the room and help if needed/wanted.  I decided to give handstand another go.

I put my hands down, stepped my feet back, lifted my right leg, kicked the left, successfully kept my arms straight, tapped my toes together… and the leg came back down.

And then I had a mini realization: I was a little scared of crashing.  I wasn’t able to keep my legs up together because I wasn’t giving my left leg enough power – because I was afraid that I would kick with too much force, and fall over and hit the hard wood floor.

Ah….  A very real, reasonable fear.  I certainly don’t want to injure myself; and yet, I really want to get this pose!  So, I had to make a decision.  Live in fear but be guaranteed that I wouldn’t get hurt (but probably also not get the pose), or push past it all (both figuratively and also quite literally) and see what happens?

I took a deep breath – then went for the latter.  Screw fear.

Hands down, feet back, leg up… now girl, KICK like you friggin’ mean it!

I did.  I kicked – hard.

And I toppled over, and I damn near fell on the student in the row in front of me.  (Sorry!)  But I caught myself (albeit super un-gracefully), and ended up just thudding my feet to the floor in front of me [instead of behind me, where they usually land when I come back down after the kick].

Okay, so not super-successful… but also not that bad.  Admittedly, it was a little scary – but not tragic.

I took a moment, let my racing heart return to a semi-normal rhythm, inhaled deeply, then tried again.

Hands down, feet back, leg up… KICK!

This time the force of the kick knocked me over my right side, and I half-twisted/half-fell out of the pose.  This time I apologized to the student on my right (sorry!), gave myself a moment to let my heart slow down, and reflected.  I felt like there was a secret to all of this that was super-close to me, but that I still needed to unlock. What was it?

In that moment, an awareness came to me: I was struggling, trying to force my way into the pose, trying to make it happen.  What if I instead allowed the pose to come?  Yes, I still needed to kick just as hard as I was doing before (my attitude won’t change the laws of physics), but instead of me chasing after the pose, trying to wrestle it to my yoga mat, what if I let the pose come to me?

So I put my hands down.  Walked my feet back.  Lifted my leg up.  Then I put a slight smile on my lips.  I breathed in deeply, and breathed out a delightful sigh.  Steadiness and ease… just let it come…

Now, KICK!

My toes touched – and my legs stayed together and up in the air for nearly three full seconds!  Holy crap – I JUST DID IT!!

I came back down in a quick-yet-controlled way, completely giddy with delight.  I wanted to make sure this wasn’t a fluke, so I repeated the entire process – and I did it again.  I held handstand for a few seconds.

(headstand pose, compliments of Yoga Journal)

As I came back down for the final time, the teacher approached me, and said, “Well get a camera, we have a yoga first for you today.”  She smiled at me, and winked.

And I beamed back at her.  Friggin’ awesome.

Stef

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About Stef

A "serious" gal who is trying to remember to lighten up and smile.
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14 Responses to Git it girl!

  1. Lia says:

    Woo hoo! That’s awesome, awesome, awesome. It’s interesting that it took more than just getting past your fear and working hard; it was also about allowing it to happen, letting it come to you. Very insightful.

    Like

    • Stef says:

      I was also really surprised by that whole process; but now that I reflect on it, I realize that has been the path to so many things in my life. (I.e., recognize what I even want, then try for it, then realize that some fear is holding me back, then move through the fear, then dance between letting go of the results yet still putting forth the effort {“doing the work”}, and allowing [rather than forcing] the thing to come in its’ own way, on its’ own time.) Indeed, perhaps this is how it is for all things in life? Hmm…. I might have to ponder that one. 🙂

      Like

  2. Hallysann says:

    Yay ! Go you ! 😀

    Like

  3. Sandy Chen says:

    I stumbled across your blog by exploring the yoga tag on wordpress. I posted an almost identical experience today. Your post made me smile because I knew exactly what you were feeling. Amazing rush. Congrats!

    Like

    • Stef says:

      Sandy, super-cool synergy between our posts! (I read yours, and left a comment for you on your site.) Congrats to you as well on your bound standing splits! That’s a toughie, too. 🙂

      Like

  4. Touch2Touch says:

    Not so much congrats on the handstand — (to me that’s super-human in the first place and out of my sphere of comprehension)
    as for uncovering that sequence and nailing it:
    Fear
    Defying Fear
    Allowing to Be

    It’s the discovery and application of the allowing that awes me today, and yes, I’m gonna appropriate that. It’s the missing piece. Thanks, Stef!

    Like

    • Stef says:

      Judith, so much of what I learn on my yoga mat is broadly applicable to all of life; indeed, that’s the whole “point” of true yoga. It’s less about bendy-twisty poses (though they are fun) and more about awareness and the infrequent-yet-wonderful-when-they-occur moments of insight. 🙂

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  5. deenie12 says:

    This is so great, congratulations!! 🙂

    Like

  6. carlaat says:

    Wow – cool! Love the story. My handstand is at the wall, and I think will be for the forseeable future – but maybe someday I’ll do it in the middle of the room – cool!

    Like

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