Maybe its the rush of blood to my brain, but my yoga practice has never been as much fun as this year, thanks to serious practice on my headstands, handstands, and forearm balances. Turn me upside down and a smile breaks through the concentration. What use to freak me out a bit, is now my favorite part of class… and like any good knock-on effect, the more I attempt to balance upside down, the stronger I get, the more confident I become, and the more balance and grace I can infuse into my practice….the latter being extremely important after kicking a fellow student smack in the forehead (luckily he was a friend, although he may be rethinking that friendship now that his concussion has worn off).
There is something playful in finding the strength and balance needed in inversion balances. Its like the difference in running between a track workout and a trail run. One is work and one is play. I have a enough work in my life, I want my free time to be playful and bring a smile to my face. As a former dancer (ballet and modern, not pole) my ‘sport’ was expressive and playful – when I turned to trail running and mountain biking (and racing) I found the playfulness was still there just in a different, slightly more painful, form. Yoga gives me a chance to slow down, turn my thoughts inwards, and yet still play, all while hanging out upside down.
Every Monday night one of my instructors asks us at the beginning of class if there is something we’d like to focus on – my answer is always the same. Balance. Standing, arm balances, or inversions – doesn’t matter. I just love the practice of balancing and the strength that builds out of it. Which, of course, relates back to balance I strive for in my daily life. Big surprise.
As a former Pilates instructor, I always tell my clients, the exercises or movement patterns that they tend to avoid or don’t like to do, are usually the ones they need most. Being aware of that, my body asks to do the opposite. I crave the movements that are somehow reflected as lacking in my work and home. In my case lack of balance. It takes courage to go into inversions, strength and balance to stay there, and perseverance to keep trying after the concussion incident. All traits I need in abundance outside of the studio.
Amazingly, my improvement in my headstands have coincided with new found strength and balance in my life. Which came first, the chicken or the egg? I’m not sure. Nor am I sure it really matters. What matters is I am evolving along with my yoga practice. With a big grin across my face.